Category Archives: Weather

Catching up (January 2014)

I haven't posted any updates here for a couple of months, but I have been visiting Burton Marshes pretty much every week. During this time, two storm-surges have flooded the marshes, introducing new temporary lakes—much to the delight of the local wildfowl. I've also managed to get quite close to a pair of stonechats on a number of occasions, and taken some pretty nice photos.

Anyhow, without further commentary, here is a selection of photographs from Burton Marshes over the last couple of months (in chronological order):

Flock of teal, Burton Marshes.

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Blizzards

Jen in a blizzard
Jen, Arctic Explorer.

Jen and I have continued our regular  walks around the Nook Circuit this week. It has been extremely cold, and extremely icy. But we managed to avoid snow until this afternoon.

Walking into the blizzard made looking where we were going very uncomfortable, so we didn't see much. But, as we emerged from the Carr Track, we turned uphill out of the wind. Scores of rooks and jackdaws were wheeling above the house in the driving snow: a black blizzard in a white blizzard.

Then, en masse they landed in our sycamore. By the time I raised my camera, however, they were flying down into the field, looking for somewhere better to shelter.

Rooks and jackdaws
Rooks and jackdaws alighting from our sycamore.

Footnote: This is the 100th Life's Grandeur post.

Spring?

More like summer. Three days of unseasonably hot, sunny weather, with more promised.

I stood for twenty minutes, leaning over the gate near the compost heap, soaking it up. A couple of butterflies, several bumble-bees, lapwings calling, and a pair of rabbits in the back field. I have been seeing quite a few rabbits there in recent months, which is unusual. I think they might have established a new outpost nearby. They have even been digging in the lawn by the compost heap.

The larger of the two rabbits, which I assume was a male, was very active, hopping back and forth, scratching in the soil, and rubbing his chin against spiky, dead nettle stalks, presumably leaving his scent. The sap is rising. He had a sizeable, ginger, Mohican strip at the back of his neck. Do rabbits usually have these? I have not noticed them before.

It's about now that I start looking optimistically for swallows, but the earliest I have seen them up here is on my birthday, 2nd April.

Golden plovers, and a really late wheatear

A glorious, autumnal day. Thought I'd better make the most of it and try out my newly re-waterproofed boots on the moor. Not that they received much of a test.

Heard a strange call as I stood admiring the view from the trig point. It turned out to be a small group of waders, flying high, flashing white they turning dark, as they turned to expose their undersides and turned back again. I fired off a quick photo for identification purposes: seven golden plovers, it turned out:

Golden plovers
Golden plovers.

The moors are supposed to be well stocked with golden plovers, but this was only the second time I had seen them up here.

Then another surprise: a really late wheatear, hunting flies in the heather. Crazy! Didn't it realise that it should be well on its way to Africa by now?

Wheatear
White-arse.

Coming down from the moor, I was treated to a spectacular Jacob's ladder display over Stoodley Pike, and took lots and lots of photos. Wonderful!

Jacob's ladders over Calderdale
Jacob's ladders over Calderdale

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Waterlogged

A dark and waterlogged day, but I was in the mood for a walk on the moor. I soon discovered that my trusty boots—specifically, my trusty right boot—has started to leak. Eighteen years I've had them; we've been on a lot of great walks together. Think I'll try to re-waterproof them before giving up on them.

There was a pack of beagles braying in the mist all over the lower moor. Drag-hunting, I later learnt. From a distance, beagle yaps sound like jackdaws (and vice versa).

Beagles on the Moor
Beagles on the Moor

Nothing much doing on the wildlife front, apart from the obligatory red grouse. Reliable as ever. Oh, yes, and I did manage to startle a strange wader from a clump of rushes at the corner near the shooters' hut. It flew off high in total panic, issuing a harsh, almost mechanical cry: my first ever snipe on the moor.

So, a pretty good result for an inauspicious day.

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Tail-end

I spent the afternoon as I spent the previous one, planting dad-grown lavender in our recently reclaimed rockery. Low-maintenance gardening is an awful lot of work, it turns out.

I managed to disturb a rather massive common frog as I was removing the last piece of remaining turf from the rockery—I wasn't joking when I said reclaimed. I haven't seen a decent-sized frog for ages. It made my day.

By the time I called it a day at 5pm, the tail-end of Hurricane Katia was doing its best to relocate our bay tree to Norway. I sat in the wind for five minutes, admiring the rooks as they tacked in three dimensions into the storm. People don't give crows nearly enough credit for their flying skills: they really are masters of the wind. I could watch them for hours.

But I didn't watch them for hours: the breakers in my cup of tea were threatening to soak me, and I had a bay tree to move into the house.