Friday 22 January 2010

Week 93

Week 93

The snow stayed for over a week, finally disappearing over a forty eight hour period when the wind switched from a Moscow departure to it’s more usual route across the Atlantic. A few white patches remain under hedges where the sun never shines but much of it has now gone. The Rabbits were relieved to see the grass again, the prolonged covering of snow driving them to gnaw the bark from trees as a means of getting a meal. Footprints in the snow give a strong hint as to what is about at the moment. The path of a fox setting off in a straight line across a field, a well worn path as a platoon of pheasants make their daily trek from their roost to game cover, the scatty route of an errant dog bumbling around where he shouldn’t be, the snow shoe prints of a pair of swans walking their way from one river channel to another, the fine lines of an Egret print as it silently approaches the water’s edge. The egrets in this valley show little concern over the presence of man, and it is not uncommon to get within ten yards of one before he flies off. Most mornings this week the dogs have ejected a pair of Waterail from a bank of sedges near the pond, they keep going back to the same spot, although I think it is a little early for them to be pairing up. The Roe deer and Hares congregate in the same place in prolonged cold weather a shallow dip in the hundred acre field seems to be a warm sheltered spot, it is nothing to see a dozen hares hunkered down in this dip on a cold morning.

For much of a school free week, the field behind our house became the hub of village life as many turned out to rekindle their passion for sledging. The bridleway from the village bore a procession of people armed with tea trays, plastic sheeting, blow up boats and much more to use up some adrenalin on one of the fastest slopes of this parish and beyond. It normally plays host to a particularly senior Pheasant drive but even the gamekeeper turned out to pitch his young children headlong down the slope. Not a warning sign to be seen or even a nod to health and safety, just an army of kids and parents flinging themselves down a slope and enjoying themselves.

During the freeze the river fell away and was maintained by spring flow alone, it coloured and rose during the thaw, falling back to level that is about right for this time of the year. The long spring ditch that leads up through the water meadow and around the football pitch has yet to start running on the other side of the village, a sign that the aquifers can accommodate a good deal more rain yet.

The tinning is underway and I have also had some welcome limbs of ash to chop up, the woodshed took a bit of a hammering in recent weeks and is in desperate need of replenishment.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Week 92

Week 92

Snow, snow and more snow. Proper snow, about six inches of it, all piled up at the side of the road after my friend peeled the cellophane from his ten year old snow plough, attached it to his tractor and went a ploughing!

Much concern over the amount of salt and grit available, and our local supermarket is all out of Saxo. Panic in the aisles as folk stock up with non perishable food in readiness for a month inside following weather warnings from the grave and austere weatherpersons.

Snow is great. Cold and ice is what everything needs at this time of the year, Flora and Fauna need to know that it is wintertime and will be all the stronger and fitter for pulling through a cold snap. Perhaps it is a lesson that we could learn from nature. I don’t mean the Inuit practice of putting the old folk out on the ice overnight to see if they make breakfast. But those amongst us who can, should, get out and embrace the wintry conditions. Instead of asking everyone to stay at home, encourage the able bodied to get out and deal with life amid the snow. Have a go at driving on snow covered roads and develop a memory bank of how to adjust to conditions, rather than hiding away and waiting for the sun to come out again.

The frozen ground has resulted in the river falling and clearing, the spring ditches are flowing at about the average rate for this time of the year. The Brown Trout in the river look to be in reasonable condition, feeding sub surface and regaining the ounces lost post spawning, the Grayling remain in spanking form.

With heavy snow on the ground, the Pheasant feeders come into their own and become a magnet to a wide range of wild life. The small patch of ground beneath the feeder, clear of snow, with a handful of corn in the middle is a welcome meal for not only Pheasant and Partridge, but many other species of birds. Hand feeding with a bucket of corn in areas clear of snow can really concentrate birds in these conditions.

Ducks remain few and far between, although the wintry conditions have bought the Widgeon whistling up and down the valley. Gadwall have been all over this valley for the past five or six years, but this year, numbers are low. A few more Snipe jag about the valley, and I am sure that a few other species of Duck are on their way to these spring-fed and ice-free waters.
Christmas passed in the usual fun filled and hectic manner, a pile of meat devoured and a trailer full of empties for the bottle bank. New Year was, as always, a jolly night with a similar amount of meat consumed and a second trailer full of green and clear bottles with the added bonus that, for the first New Year Party in recent memory, no one fell in a pond!