Sunday, 24 March 2013

Snow holding back

Cold, white flakes fell steadily from a grey sky. Fine crystals of ice, falling silently, being blown around in shivering gusts of an icy cold wind. As the morning progressed small patches of white  began to gather on the ravaged grass. In the harsh conditions the birds flocked to the feeders and fallen seed at the farm. Wave after wave of blue, great and in particular coal tits darted from tree to feeder and back again. Large numbers of bramblings assembled in the tops of the trees before swooping down to the fallen seed, frantically feeding amongst the settling snow. The snow continued to fall, the birds continued to feed. It was the traps that were mainly catching today, with bramblings, lesser redpolls and goldfinches all being caught as they searched for the seed within. In one sheltered part of the garden a solitary mist net continually filled with tits, and the odd surprise...the best being a stunning adult song thrush. 

What a beaut! adult Song Thrush

By morning a thick layer of white covered everything, softening the lines of the trees, cars and houses. The crisp snow crunched underfoot, flurries whipped up by the wind created brief blizzards before fading away. Each branch of the trees was defined in white, each leaf had a snow cap. Tucked in, safely protected by the overhanging ivy, the robin sat low and tight on her nest, protecting her eggs from the chill air. 

Following the rush of the river and there was one of the black-bellied dipper's, the cold water slipping over its back; a grey wagtail bobbed along the bank, picking its way through the snow in search of food. 

The black-bellied dipper ã Lee Barber

And there, among the tangled branches at the river's edge, dipping in and out of the water, was Thetford's local celebrity. The otter. Seemingly to ignore the snow, and the small crowd of onlookers, he continued his search. Popping up every so often with a fish, spending a few minutes chomping, before dipping back into the river. 

Despite the snow and despite the cold, there's no holding back for our wildlife...

The lovely otter ã Lee Barber

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The first of the year

After ten days bouncing around the frothy blue waters of the Caribbean in sublime heat, it was more than a bit of a shock to the system to return to the icy cold of Norfolk. Hail storms, remnants of snow and it felt like winter's grip had not lessened in the time I had been away. Yet, there were signs that spring was at least on its way. Blackbirds, song thrush and dunnocks were all in full song. More and more patches of snow drops were unfurling their delicate petals, clustering together in splashes of brilliant white. Daffodils sprung up along the borders, adding yellow to the palette. After months of dull greens and browns, they bring a welcome breath of colour and hint of spring. 

The beauty of snow drops

The paths around Thetford, through its historic castle mound and along the swollen rivers, remained muddy. Barley's paws and tummy were splattered as we made our way along the trails. Passing a piece of ivy hanging over a crumbling wall, a robin flitted down and out. Its tail flicking. Something about this birds behaviour piqued my interest, the nester in me, having been in hibernation, stirred. I ducked under and there in my line of sight was a neatly woven nest tucked amongst the branches gripping the wall. 

The beautiful robin

The season had started, here was my first nest of the year. Three warm eggs, waiting for a couple more. A visit a few days later reveals four warm eggs. For the next few weeks the progress of this individual nest will be monitored. The eggs, chicks and outcome recorded. Although one nest, it is hopefully the first of many I might find this year, and its record will be added to a national database, from which any number of questions can be answered. 

The nest with its four eggs