Winter has arrived at last
As usual at this time of year, I arrived at Tophill Low before dawn. Thank-goodness the road had been semi-cleared of the wet snow. Once on the footpath, the only tracks in the virgin snow were those that had been left by the animals and birds. It was quiet too, except for the bitter easterly breeze that rustled the remaining leaves and the dead reeds. The sun gradually rose above the partly frozen surface of the lake, but the curtains of clouds remained firmly shut and the winter landscape took on those familiar pastel shades.
I quickly set up my camera and long lens and waited some movement. I stared at the ice pattens on the surface of the lake; even daring to make a couple of quick exposures of grey and white surface.
The reserve appeared desolate and there was nothing showing on the icy-frozen surface of the lake. I could see a few tracks on the surface and I was hoping for a glimpse of the local fox. I’d seen fox tracks in the deep snow on my approach walk and I stopped several times to view the paw prints. I saw where the fox had stopped and scratched away the surface of the snow leaving a little bare patch of mud and grass. Well, I waited over seven hours in the freezing cold but the fox was obviously elsewhere.
The local barn owl was active and more than made up for the fox’s shyness. Apart from a few hours rest between dawn and ten, it was hunting throughout the day. Always marvellous to watch, I was also conscious of the added difficulty that the snow had added to the availability of its staple prey.
One of my favourite sounds of winter is the raucous chuckle of a group of Fieldfare. I sat and watched them take the hawthorn berries, much to the annoyance of the resident pair of blackbirds, who clearly did not want to share. The Fieldfares Latin name, Turdus pilaris appears to be quite fitting, certainly to a non-scholar such as myself.
Finally, just as I was about to leave in search of a nice warm bath, I saw some movement in the far distance and something was running across the surface of the ice. I clicked a couple of times but I couldn’t see to well and thought it was a common moorhen. When I got home and reviewed my images, I was delighted to see that it was a water rail.