Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Snow Ticks

As the south basked in near-tropical conditions my day (Saturday) went far from that planned. We live at the bottom of a gentle slope, the last house before the farmland stretches off to the north as far as the eye can see. Add 10.5 inches of snow and the gentle slope may as well be the north face of the Eiger as far as either of our cars are concerned. So after an hour attempting to dig my way off the drive and aim the car in the right direction before enjoying the kind of pointless wheel-spinning session that would have had chaps half my age lavishing praise I give up.
Instead I took the opportunity for a new list, I haven't quite managed to come up with a cool acronym yet based around the 'On Foot From Home In Thick Snow' type theme, though with the snow continuing overnight and into Sunday it's one I may yet get another crack at fairly soon.
I decided out of sheer stupidity that it would be a good morning to climb the highest point nearby, the landscaped, former pit heap. A few birches and alders that might hold passing redpolls and a good visible migration point, perhaps not in near Arctic conditions though.
Still inside the village boundary the first surprise of the morning came in the form of five white shapes flying north fairly low and passing almost overhead, three drake and two female/immature Goosander being not on my radar of expected sightings. Having reached the top of Annapurna the local pit heap I planed a flag and captured the scene.
 I walked down into the mixed woodland alongside the Bothal Burn, crossed the footbridge over the swollen stream and up the other side, a Tawny Owl moved off a few feet into the wood and sat staring at me for a short while before moving on beyond sight. The next mile or so was a hard slog through unbroken snow back to the main road. Due to the lack of traffic I walked to Bothal Pond mainly on the road, a couple of Bullfinch feeding in roadside trees .

Bothal Pond was two thirds frozen, a small wader on the ice was intriguing but avoided more specific ID due to lack of a scope. Several Snipe and a couple of Little Grebe were around the margins. A couple of skeins of Pink-footed Geese moved south-west around this time.

I carried on east to the Longhirst Flash turn, the corner of the field there sporting a burst or a spring of some nature in the corner that was flowing strong and had prevented any snow cover on a 25m patch. It was alive with passerines with 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Reed Bunting, 10 Starling, several Fieldfares & Redwings and a couple each of Robin & Dunnock. Worth checking for Jack Snipe if the snow cover continues and this patch keeps snow free.Whilst stood peering at this mob, five Whooper Swans flew south noisily calling overhead as they passed.
I walked back along the old railway line between the birches, alders and hawthorn that were filled with small stuff. Bullfinches and Chaffinches low down along the fence, more thrushes lifting along ahead of me. No surprise then to find two Waxwing on some leftover rowan berries and further along a small flock of Siskin.

The walk back along the road was unproductive, enjoying the freshness of the morning I cut through the woods to Bothal village, a small tit flock including a couple of Goldcrest scant reward for the effort. Dropping through the village a Nuthatch called and a Great Spotted Woodpecker surveyed the surrounding snow filled fields from atop a large pine. The Wansbeck was in full spate and the stepping stones were impassable, though a Kingfisher flushed from the bank below my vantage provided a self-found year tick. The uphill walk home added a couple more GSW and a large pale brown raptor in brief, between tree flight, away from me that was most probably a juvenile Common Buzzard.

1 comment:

Stewart said...

A nice trip around my old haunts there Alan. That bridge over the pit heap was good for Water Shrews and Water Voles. Maybe one of them is still around....