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The Big Freeze

1st of February 2010

Winters chill brings with it both delights and problems. The delights come in the form of wonderful scenery , different birds, close encounters with things in need of food, and, of course, tobogganing! The problems for us are the slippery surfaces and getting about; for the birds and wildlife it’s finding enough to eat and drink and somewhere to bathe. Again this year we have left the pond pumps running on the wildlife pond and everything is grateful. Fox tracks abound by the little waterfall and the birds queue up for a bath. This evening a heron is standing with his feet in the running water, I’m not sure what he will find, but it makes me feel cold!
One of the pair of robins by the veg garden has decided to be extra friendly and will now take dried meal worms from my hand. His mate dives into the sheep trough as soon as I put the food in and then they follow me up to feed the chickens, taking food from the bowl whilst I undo the ark. The bird table is a hive of activity, with a pair of nuthatches ruling the roost.
In the few days we had without snow just after Christmas a flock of 50 or so Golden Plovers arrived in the back fields. These birds will have come from Iceland or Scandinavia and, as the weather on the east coast got colder, they will have moved inland. They were a glorious sight as they flew in formation with the first rays of the sun picking out their white breasts. I could not be certain what they were that first morning so I was sure to take my binoculars with me the next morning. I found them looking rather miserable, waiting for the sun to come up in a small hollow in the field. With the bins I could see their rounded heads and short dark bills. They eat worms, slugs and seeds and it’s hard to think where they will find these now. As I came back from my walk I noticed they had chosen the spot in the field that gets the first rays of the sun, the rest being shaded by the woods or tall trees. Clever old birds! Since the snow came there has been no sign of them so I hope they have found somewhere with soft ground.
Meanwhile I am having great fun with my trusty old toboggan whizzing down the hills in Scatterdells Woods. It’s like riding a bike, once you know how to do it you never forget!
Wendy Bathurst

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