Millions of tiny diamonds spread out across the grassy fields of the Ouse Valley this morning, Jack frost had been busy with his frozen paint brush overnight, and had transformed the landscape from lush greens, and vivid browns of autumn, into one of frozen spikes, and soft pastels. The encrusted blades of grass crackled as I crossed the sheep fields below the old church as the sun began to spread her warming rays over the freezing morning.
Embracing The Frost
Strolling down to the fast flowing river Ouse, the trees and hedges took on an ethereal feel covered in the white tendrils of frozen cobwebs and spikes of frost built up through the night under a cloudless sky. The freezing air turning my breath to vapour as I walked, the cold biting through my gloves to freeze my fingers, my body warm in my new coat, today was a day for embracing the frost for sure.
|Frosty fields - you can see the ancient furrows of this field clearly here.|
|Frost covered gate|
|View back to the Old Church|
|Frosty River Ouse|
|A Frosty Path|
Small parties of Mallard fighting the current of the fast flowing waters squabbled for tasty titbits off the waters surface, while long legged Moorhen ran through the reeds edging the waters flow, starting to stand straight after being flattened in the recent flood waters.
Overhead small flocks of Canada Geese honked through, not the huge skeins you might find in coastal regions but every growing inland flocks as the birds gather for safety over winter. along the rivers bank a solitary Little Egret hunkered down in the relative warmth of an overhang, striking white in the mornings sun, yet somehow matching the frosty feel of the day. The same Canada Geese earlier seen flying were now stalking the fields over the river, pecking through the long coated grasses, or separated into pairs, already beginning to establish bonding, perhaps.
|Canada Geese in Flight|
|Little Egret on the Banks of the Ouse|
|Pairing up Canada Geese?|
Under the canal swimming the rivers water, with the company of Mallards a lone Little Grebe ducked and dived into the murky waters or hid in the overhanging branches, hiding from my presence. an unusual sight on a flowing river and my first experience of such here.
A Frozen Reserve
The reason for the grebes river presence was soon clear as I entered the nature reserve, the silvery strands of frost coating the scrubby plants once more but now accompanied by sheets of ice covering large areas of the reserves open water.
|Mallard on the Frozen Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve|
|Tufted Duck in Flight|
In the few patches of unfrozen water the remaining ducks swam, or settled tucked up on the banks. Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Mallard covered the patches on the western waters, by the Aqueduct hide. While the more eastern pits held Wigeon and Teal, with Mute Swan and Cormorant and the usual plethora of winter plumaged gull.
My walk along the back brook, as always, produced parties of Redwing and Fieldfare as they fled from my approach, in front of the Farm Hide the pair of Stonechat could still be seen, sadly too far away for my lens, but looking stunning in the low lying sunshine.
|A Look up at the Farm Buildings|
|Embracing the Frost|
In the large oak tree, that stands sentinel below the farm buildings, a Little Owl could be found, appearing at distance to be an abnormal lump on one of the large branches, but with closer inspection his yellow eyes could be seen, piercingly staring out over the water as it kept watch over the nature reserve.
My walk today took me past the Viaduct hide and back along the river, the path offered wonderful views today over the reserve, the thick frost sparkling in the brilliant sunshine, the farm buildings slightly shrouded in haze from the sunshine, and the brilliant deep blue of the wintry skies.
|Farm buildings above Nature Reserve|
Meandering back through the nature reserve, following the central path, Common Gull fought and screeched above fighting over a morsel of food gathered from the nearby recycling centre or scavenged from one of the factory yards. Wigeon flew around in small groups of twos and threes, adult Mute Swans swam the part frozen lakes while one of this years youngsters waddled the banks, precarious out of the water, occasionally stumbling over the remaining weeds.
|Wigeon in Flight|
|Black-headed Gull in Flight|
|Young Mute Swan|
|Young Mute Swan in Flight|
As I passed the Farm Hide once again I had a moment of excitement as a Great White Egret flew right over my head before circling the reserve and dropping down out of site, I had though this bird, seen regularly earlier in autumn, had moved on, but clearly it is still touring the area, putting in brief appearances here and there. No sooner had it landed and it was off again, heading off in long powerful beats of its wings over Old Wolverton and towards Wolverton itself, I have no real idea where this elegant heron was heading, perhaps to the flood plains be Bancroft (part of my old patch)?
|Great White Egret in Flight|
|Great White Egret coming into the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve|
|Great White Egret Leaving the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve|
Amazed by the brief sighting and after spending a while longer watching the Stonechat, hoping they would head back towards the path, sadly they didn't, I headed back home along the path, Goldfinch and Wren keeping me company as I left the nature reserve once more.
|Kestrel passing through|
|Kestrel passing through|