Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Sort of totally tropical, for a while at least

The Safari took Frank out yesterday morning and it was almost tee-shirt sleeves weather, well -1°C felt like tropical after the previous day’s -7°C.
The wildlife was perkier too with several Robins heard and Blackbirds chacking away all over the place while the world was still in darkness. We even heard the Peregrine long before the first rays of sunlight brightened the eastern sky; they were spectacular when they did though, glowing pinks, oranges and reds beneath a bank of low cloud.
At work Dunnocks were lively in the gardens calling and perching up doing all that wing flicking they do as if this minor respite in the weather really was Spring.
Patch 2 didn’t disappoint either apart from the idiot dog walker who led her pooch all the way along the tide line and flushed everything off the patch – the dozy doughbrain! To make up for that the sea was good. Two pale bellied Brent Geese flew in the direction of Walney Island whilst five Red Breasted Mergansers hugged the water’s edge flying towards the mouth of the river. There were plenty of flocks of Common Scoters numbering over two hundred birds altogether, one small flock had a Great Crested Grebe with it, two other Great Crested Grebes were also seen. Red Throated Divers numbered five scattered singles.
Cormorants were very much in evidence. Two large strings flew north west out to sea, well over a 150 in total with one Shag seen just in advance of the first flock. Many other Cormorants were coming from the north along the tideline going south; probably well over 200 seen during the ten minutes we were watching.
No lunchtime safari was made over the high tide which is a shame as BM on the Southside had a field guide full of sea birds and a Harbour Porpoise too.
After work we had to pick up Wifey from her office and as we got in to the car a Woodcock flew up and over us. We headed off for a family reunion in Liverpool down the busy motorway with the temperature still a tropical 0/+1°C. Almost at our destination a Little Owl flew over the carriageway in front of us which was nice.
At our get-together we learnt that the Safari’s sister is getting married in the Spring, which is good news as the wedding is to be held only an hour’s drive away from the stronghold of one of only two regular UK breeding species the Safari hasn’t yet seen (in the BI); Cirl Bunting – fingers crossed we get some time off for good behaviour!
The roads were quieter on our return but the hoped for Barn Owl didn’t put in appearance for us, nor did we manage to spot the ‘possible’ dead Bittern on the hard shoulder of the M58 reported a few days ago.
This morning on Patch 1 it was back to the ‘normal’ abnormal -5°C and all was deathly quiet and very, very dark; practically the only light in the deepest darkest depths of the park was coming from Venus! On the return leg we heard a faint but familiar sound coming from the direction we’d just come from – a Blackbird was singing in the distance.
The pre-work Patch 2 safari was once again dogged by an inconsiderate dog walker – don’t they know birders own the countryside??? He and his mutt were walking away to the south and birds started to reappear along the tideline so we had a good look at the sea first. Not a lot doing really but the pink morning light on the snow covered Lake District fells was stunningly beautiful and through the scope the Welsh mountains looked impressive too, should really dig that ice-axe out of its hiding place and go for a high level wander.
Plenty of Cormorants were noted again but nothing like the numbers seen yesterday. A few small flocks of Common Scoters were scattered about and that was about it apart from the 11 Red Throated Divers most of which were distant.
On the beach we didn’t count the Oystercatchers, none of the Common Gulls looked remotely like a Ring Billed Gull nor did any of the few Herring Gulls resemble anything like a Caspian Gull. Two Dunlins were pick of the bunch but easily outnumbered by their paler cousins, Sanderlings, of which there were an unimpressive 19. A smattering of Redshanks weren’t counted, half a dozen or so tops.
Lunchtime’s high tide safari was a little disappointing and the northerly breeze that had picked up made life uncomfortable despite the welcome sunshine. Once again there were plenty of Cormorants, we counted at least 60 and ignored a load before we started counting. Probably triple figures out there. In the shimmering distance there was a good sized group of them fishing with some success. They were too far away for us to be able to see any mammals that might have been out there too. There were at least 15 Great Black Backed Gulls in attendance waiting for the chance of a piratical pounce to steal a fish. The only other birds of note were two Great Crested Grebes swimming ‘hell for leather’ together...going where and why?
How bad is this current cold spell? Well have a look at this compilation of records going back nearly 400 years, to 1616. Note in particular the depth of snow reported from Blackpool in 1955 – Double Wow – anyone out there remember/confirm this? Note also, written in 2008, ‘A scenario like that of 1794-95 could happen again soon if High Pressure establishes itself in Greenland and Scandinavia. Something to watch for in the coming months, although a winter on the same scale as 1794-95 is very unlikely, as it was extreme, even for the 'Little Ice Age'!’ isn’t that exactly what we have now and what happened last year?
The Safari can corroborate the 6-7 foot drifts mentioned on the East coast of England in 1978-79; we lived about 10 miles east of Norwich at that time and the snow had filled the country lanes to the top of the triangular road signs and above the top of the front door of our cottage; see if we can dig out a pic from that time for you. We remember walking to the pub – the Brick Kilns at Little Plumstead - along the top of the frozen hedges as it was impossible to walk along the road. The donkeys, or at least a donkey, was there then and was sometimes found behind the bar. Anyone know of any bloggers out there covering this area the Safari can link to for nostalgic purposes? It was our local patch for three years and by ‘eck those Bure Marshes are a cold, cold place in the depths of winter!
Where to next? Just more patch news for the time being.
In the meantime let us know what the maximum depth of snow has been in your outback.


Monika said...

And here I thought maybe everything wouldn't be frost covered based on the title of your post, but it turns out you're talking about an increase of just six degree and still below zero temps!

Stay warm over there....

Amazing to this Yankee that your weather records go back 400 years!

cliff said...

Loved reading the old weather records Dave, I've just pinched that to post elsewhere.