Back in 2010 we had a freeze at both ends of the year. The snow began on Jan 6, and on that day I walked from my home in Seaton, down to Black Hole Marsh, out onto the tramway and up the Axe valley to Colyford. There were just a couple of inches of snow, but it was enough to transform the landscape...
|Black Hole Marsh that morning. That dark shape out there is an otter. It was diving through holes in the ice and catching small mullet.|
The accompanying freeze saw an absolutely massive hard-weather displacement of birds, the biggest I've ever witnessed. Thousands and thousands of Fieldfares, Redwings, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Lapwings etc passed through our patch in just a few days. Axe biggies included a Smew and Bittern, the latter a patch tick for everyone I think. I recall watching a flock of c300 Lapwings fly purposefully southwards out over the sea; next stop: France. It was a few days of truly spectacular winter birding.
And then, in December, it froze again. At the start of the month a flock of up to 18 Woodlarks appeared in a field down in the valley, presumably driven off their normal wintering site on higher ground.
|This bird - and its mates - avoided clumsy boots by scuttling out of the way.|
On Dec 18 there was some more proper snow, tempting me once again to walk the forbidden path out to the tramway and up to Colyford...
|View S across Black Hole Marsh from the naughty path.|
Skylarks were on the move big-time. I counted some 11,250 passing through, many of them touching down for a short time in the Woodlark field, and fluked a Lapland Bunting among them too. Another six inches of snow on 20th pushed our Lapwing tally to 3,000...
Yep. No doubt about it, a good freeze-up is brilliant for birding.
But I doubt the birds themselves are too keen. Also, ice and snow are rubbish for cycling and fishing. And outdoor jobs. It's funny how your perspective changes according to circumstances. When I am once again fully up to date with work (and a birder!) then I shall welcome a big freeze with open arms. Meanwhile the prospect of such is snow joke!