My sandwiches were made the previous night and my flasks pre-warmed overnight, I was prepared for an early start. However, the garden was white with a hard frost when I looked out at 7.00 am. I went out to restock the bird feeders and it was -5.5c. driving along the M56 motorway the weather alternated between clear and sunny and thick fog.
I crossed the bridge on Marsh Lane with -4c showing on the car and the distant river shrouded in a cloak of freezing fog. However the lane towards the old birdlog remained clear and I was the first to drive down it breaking the puddles with their layer of ice intact. That was a bad thing. Every one I drove through cracked like a shotgun going off and thrushes exploded from all the ice-covered Hawthorn trees on either side of the lane.
I pulled up, got myself ready and drank a cup of home-made coffee (for a change). Not as good as my usual Latte by any stretch. I walked back down Brook Furlong Lane, across to Redwall and back and across to the I.C.I tank, returning by the river which remained essentially invisible, the fog not giving the water up at all.
Thrush number were up and there’d been a definite influx. 200 Fieldfare, 60 Redwing, 50 Song Thrush, 40 Blackbird and a single Mistle Thrush. 2 Goldcrest and 6 Long-tailed Tit and a Bullfinch were below the old log.
There was a female Stonechat sat on a fence post and a small flock of finches and buntings flushed from a field edge which included 10 Chaffinch, 6 Linnet and 8 Reed Bunting. The area looked good for future checking. I carried on, the landscape looking like an icy winter wonderland. As I walked around the fog loomed ever closer and the hard frost covered hawthorn berries reminding me of the decorations they sell in garden centres.
I watched a Goldcrest hanging upside and hovering in the middle of one bush and it made me wonder how these tiny birds find enough food in weather like today’s. But apart from more thrushes it was quiet. I couldn’t actually see the water as I walked back along the path and eventually got back to the car which was still in bright sunshine. Common Snipe were much in evidence and I counted 28 in one area with 10 more over No.6 tank.
I drove around to the junction of No.6, 5 and 3 and made some soup to go with the cheese and garlic butties. A Merlin hurtled through and out over No.6. I finished lunch and walked into a scrubby area but with little reward. The fog began to roll in and only the tops of the turbines were visible as they has been most of the day. They looked quite eerie, almost surreal, as though the three blades on each were floating in the air. Non turned in anger, but moved ever so slowly round.
Bill appeared out of the mist (like a Gorilla) having walked a long way to the west. We moved to the west end of No.3 and stood waiting for a Barn Owl that had been seen last night, but the chill in the air and the fog meant that it was virtually dark by 4.00 pm. The maximum temperature had been 0c and it was -2c at dusk. The sun sank slowly into an icy-blue horizon, made all the more interesting by a vapour trail cutting it in half just before it vanished, appearing look like a moon around a distant planet. I made brew for us both as we waiting for anything interesting with a pair of wings, but even a last drive along Brook Furlong failed to produce anything new. The thrushes were still feeding at dusk and filled the air with silhouettes as they scattered into the gloom.
Observer and images: Tony Broome.