Sunday 24 January 2021

Misery Guts

Right now, this very minute, I am being seriously gripped via WhatsApp. As I sit here typing this sorry lament in cold, rainy, dismal Bridport, Steve is taking photos of a lovely 2nd-winter Caspian Gull he's just found on the Axe, and forwarding them to all of us on the local WhatsApp group. It's a cracking bird, and the plumage is unlike any I've seen before. Hopefully there will soon be a mouth-watering write-up on Steve's blog, and frankly I can't wait to see it. Still, that doesn't prevent me from feeling exceedingly gripped just now...

Winter is not my favourite season. And as I get older I like it less. Maybe if I didn't need to work in it I would feel differently, but as things stand it is a period to be endured, and the end of it to be longed for, welcomed and cheered. Yes, every winter I wish a small part of my life away.

And yet I suppose it is winter that provides me with more gull jollies than any other season. In recent winters I've been a bit spoiled in this regard, with a few lovely Caspian Gulls coming my way. There was a brief Casp encounter last month for example, plus that monster Glaucous Gull. A few birds like that make winter bearable. Occasionally there is non-gull stuff too, like the excellent West Bex Cirl Bunting story that began on January 1st. Subtle, tricky, educational, a photographic challenge. All good. So why the whingeing? Why am I so bothered about a bit of modest grippage?

I wish I knew. I'll put it down to winter blues...

While in the garden yesterday I saw a Raven, possibly two. Which means my 2021 Garden List is now on 24. Despite putting in a number of cold garden vigils, that is my measly total. Twenty-bloomin'-four. I haven't even seen or heard a Great Tit yet. Pathetic.

Prior to the Raven triumph I went for a sunny walk in the countryside...

Male Bullfinch brightens a twiggy tangle...

...and so does a Redwing.

Lapwings are rather lovely aren't they?

Nothing 'new' for the year, just a steady parade of the usual suspects. A couple of spots I fancied trying were too busy for my taste, which is another joyous facet of the current winter scene of course. Still, taking a few mediocre photos of common birds in the sunshine was nice.

There was a slim chance of snow today. In the event it snowed inland a bit, but we got none here. Despite my dislike of the cold, a short, sharp freeze-up would be welcome. Though I do feel a bit bad wishing harsh conditions on the birds, the beauty - and the muffled silence - of a snowy landscape takes some beating. In January 2010 we had just such a spell in Seaton. Everything ground to a halt. On January 6th I pulled on my wellies and set out from home in the falling snow. Arriving at the newly-created Black Hole Marsh, this was the scene...

An otter trots across the ice. It was diving into unfrozen holes and catching little mullet. Note the figure in the background on the far right. Shortly afterwards I had joined him on the tramline, which provided a perfect - if illicit - vantage point from which to survey the spectacular scenery up and down the valley.

But we're not going to get any of that kind of weather in the foreseeable future, are we? No, just rain. Temperatures will no doubt be average or above, with a steady, tedious march of Atlantic weather systems dousing us on a regular basis. Just the kind of winter that it is perfectly legal to hate with a vengeance. A pain for working in. A pain for birding in.

It's funny. If today had been a weekday rather than a Sunday, and I'd been working in Seaton, I could have responded to Steve's Caspian Gull find with an instant lunchbreak, and the tone of this post would have been completely different...

Where's that corkscrew...?


  1. Stopping work is no cure for the dislike of winter, it just makes you embrace the spring a little more. But then you realise that a time will come when you will not see another.

    Has that cheered you up :o)

    We had snow, the garden is full of (the usual) birds as it's not heavy or prolonged enough to bring in anything special. A walk in the snow has left my arthritic joints aching. Roll on May.

    After you with the corkscrew.

    1. So far I've been fortunate enough to remain in reasonably good working order. Joints mostly okay, and good mobility. But the cold gets in much quicker than it did years ago, and it's harder to get warm again too, especially my hands. That's why it's such a pain to work in. Nevertheless, in the light of your realistic appraisal of one's 'three-score years and ten' I shall heartily welcome each and every winter from now on!

      The corkscrew is yours. Tonight I have a screw-cap!