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Friday, 1 February 2013

A frozen landscape and feeding the birds...

The New Year saw temperatures drop dramatically all over the country. Which meant one thing… stand still! Lots of people cannot cope, while lots of people get over-excited (mostly kids, or the kids that never grew up), and others moan in the great British negative manner we all seem to thrive on. But how many people stopped, and took a moment to appreciate exactly what it was that coated our landscape? And what about the field voles? The owls?  The hibernating insects?

River Ivel, Langford
Passing through the now transformed concrete jungle. Roads of tarmac, curbs and bricks and mortar. Now frozen. So what was dull, grey and lifeless, now gripped by haw frost. Like sweeping all of the damage we have done to the environment for the benefit of our own kind under a carpet of pure, white snow. Places I would normally detest suddenly look beautiful. Hidden under a cloak of bright white. The snow continued to fall all over the country. Each flake as unique as the people on our planet, individual in shape and form.

Frozen Barbed Wire

Food for the birds is vital in this cold and ice. Finding natural food stuff in such wintery conditions is difficult. A great time to get some close views of garden birds, as they are drawn in to the food and water readily available in our gardens.

Blackbird in the Snow

The first Uncle-Nephew long walk of the New Year, took us on a 14 mile stroll from Langford, through Broom and out to Shuttleworth, looping back around along part of the Ivel Navigation. Probably the most exciting thing about the snow for me, is the tracks left behind by animals. Fox prints, muntjac, birds of all sizes. The slightly longer print of the blackbird, as it makes its way out from the hedgerow. Taking to the air, its wings brush against the surface of the snow, leaving the perfect spread of wing feathers at the end of the track.

Inconspicuously amongst the branch of the deep green fir tree. Occasionally showing itself as it bounced between branches, to hunt for its favored food types of small insects. The soft olive plumage and bright golden yellow crest make the goldcrest a gem among birds. Holding the record as Britain's smallest bird. Momentarily, we were shadowed by the incredible raptor, the red kite. As it soared between the firs, twisting its forked tail, so to give an effortless impression. 

The cold weather seems to give animals that extra bit of courage and boldness, necessary as they become ever more desperate to survive the extreme cold. It takes a lot of energy to keep warm, energy that needs replacing with more food. Some of my most enjoyable encounters with kingfishers have been during the winter months, when lakes have turned to ice, and frost and snow grips the yellow lichen coated branches overhanging the river. This walk was one of these moments. All the kingfisher could care about was catching its next meal. Finding the perch. Eyeing up the fish. Calculating dive speed and direction. And plunging into the slow flowing river Ivel, pulling an unwary stickleback from the water. Even the dogs didn't bother the bird, as we followed and watched from a few yards away, diving and feeding, time and time again. 

Kingfisher after catching a Fish

Flying to its next perch

Having the friday afternoon off of work meant the three generations, Granddad, dad, and I, could get out and take in what remained of the snow before the rain and floods set in. 

Tree in the Snow

Looking down over Pirton

Sky living it up!

Even though the snow has cleared, it is never too late to start to feed the garden birds regularly. My mum hasn't had food in her feeders for most of the year, until this month. And after two weeks, I counted three great tits, three robins, two blackbirds, song thrush, two blue tits, four sparrows and a dunnock, all within the space of an hour. Also, if you fancy putting some nest boxes up, now is a good time - try the RSPB site for advice on sizes and placement - - Birds can be fussy! 

One of four sparrows


Great Tit

I have recently acquired a dead shrew, found in the field opposite my house. Rather than severe the flesh and head off and keep the skull, I decided to give taxidermy a proper go, using the kit and book Rachael and her family kindly bought me for christmas.... expect a gruesome blog to follow! 


  1. Beautiful images and engaging writing Tom, enjoyed this blog post very much.

    All the best from (snow-less) Queensland, Australia.


    1. Thank you Rob!

      Have been reading through your blog - equally impressed with your images and work.