Not all stories have to start “Once Upon a Time“. This is a truth I keep trying to teach my daughter. She is a pretty good story teller for 6 years old, (so much so that often the truth and her imagination mix together to for a hybrid memory of what happened in a day, and it takes a little coaxing to get the truth). But almost all of her stories start with that age old line. As I sat down to write today’s post it dawned on me that I have my own “Once Upon a Time” right here on the blog! All too often my posts begin with the weather.
Just as not all stories have to start “Once Upon a Time” so not all blog posts have to, nor should they, start with the weather. As important as it can be in dictating the mood of the day’s walk and the writing of the blog, I do not always have to start there; so, I will try to vary my introductions a little more from here on.
That being said…
Once Upon a Time
As I entered the sheep fields today the skies were a heavy, dull, combination of battleship grey rain clouds, overlying a continuous sheet of brilliant white Nimbostratus, visible only in patches amongst their darker relations. The sun was but a distant memory, whose rays could not burn through the impenetrable sheet of nimbus. The wind blowing a gale across the sodden grass and preventing all but the hardiest of avifauna from taking to the wing. A somewhat typical, wet and windy Autumn, Novembers day. The last of 2015. Winter will be upon us tomorrow as we hit the month of the winter festivals. All Christmas lights and intoxicating smells.
I’m not really sure why I even bothered leaving the house today, if I’m honest. With the weather as awful as it has been of late (it actually seemed windier today than on my windy walk). Most sensible birds stay tucked up and out of sight, or rather out of the cold, wind, and rain (as should most birders probably). So the chances of seeing anything were pretty slim. I even had the fool hardy idea to carry my long lens with me! Not sure what I was hoping for, some miraculous blue skies and sunshine maybe? Who knows, perhaps I am not in my right mind with my back pain.
And actually that is the reason as to why I was out today. When the discomfort of sitting doing nothing is too much to bare you might as well be out doing something you love and suffering; rather than be bored and suffer.
Sadly as I crossed the fields towards the fast flowing, slightly swollen, river, the lack of moving birds was quite apparent. The small flocks of winter thrushes made up of mainly the larger Fieldfare; but with a few accompanying smaller Redwing; were almost the only creatures in the air. A few Crows and Jackdaw littered the grass, making the odd half hearted attempt to join the thrush in flight, only to quickly decide that the ground was a far less draughty place to be.
A lone Cormorant, looking more reptilian than ever, used the powerful tail wind to speed its flight across the darkening skies and over the canal to the waters of the Manor Farm pits. The dull shadow he cast on the tops of the trees, creating a scene reminiscent of a time past when pterosaurs ruled the skies.
I made my way further down river, ducking low as I passed through the old cattle creep, and fighting my way through the eddying winds, and on to the camp site lake. Scanning through the peaks and troughs of the waves being created by this strong blow I could barely make out the few Pochard that seem to enjoy this lake over all other bodies of the patch, the local Gadwall seem to be favouring this open expanse of water at present too and it is always home to large numbers of Coot and Tufted duck through the winter months.
Pushing on further I was treated to a large gathering of Eurasian Teal as they entered one of the, less exposed, channels on the Manor Farm pits themselves. Although little else was using the open water, either put off by the now persistent rain fall, the strong, bitter winds or the hardy workmen still out building paths and hides no matter the weather.
I soon found myself approaching the Eastern end of the reserve. While watching a few Linnet, as they tried to feed on the tops of the bent double weeds edging the water, I paused briefly to scare off the small mixed gull flock (a total accident). And expose myself to the full force of the wind now blowing across the complete lake complex; and whipping me face on with a force strong enough that I had to lean in to it slightly to remain standing! I watched as the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Common Gull easily negotiated the ferocious winds; while their smaller relative, the Black-headed Gull, struggled to fight their way into the head wind and away from me.
A Little Respite
Finally leaving the lakes I headed on round the ponds, dug out to feed water to the wash plant of the gravel extraction, and into a little shelter provided by the tall poplars that surround these small square, and presumably deep, ponds. This shelter allowed a nice charm of Goldfinch to feed on the rattling teasels just beyond the fence. While I ducked down below the weeds to try and sneak up for a photo, a beautiful little Blue Tit let its curiosity get the better of it; as it inched closer and closer to my position. Coming within a couple of feet before the ring of my phone reminded it I was not something to approach too closely.
|Part of the small charm of Goldfinch|
|Goldfinch looking down the lens (very unprofessional)|
Canon 70D with 400mm Lens f/6.4 1/300 ISO400
Rounding the East end I headed past the dwindling tailing piles of the current gravel workings, and was soon heading over the, now extremely exposed, cattle fields towards the farm buildings themselves. A brief stop to watch some cryptically marked Dunnock; and more colourful Chaffinch; feeding beside the old cow troughs and I was off again. Heading along the top path into a full on gale that drove the drizzle, with a biting force, squarely into my face.
|Dunnock feeding on the path|
Fortunately I managed to move with a speed unusual for me. And was at the Grand Union canal, and the relative shelter of it’s high hedges, very quickly. Packing away my camera gear and bins I headed back home for a bite of lunch and some well earned pain killers. Not the most bird filled or photographically thrilling of days; but sometimes heading into the storm is needed to remind one we are alive.
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