The the grass crunched under my feet as I crossed the glittering fields of the Ouse Valley, Old Wolverton, in front of me a lush landscape, dusted white overnight, by the impish Jack frost. Crystal clear, endless, blue sky stretched out over the freezing river valley. Breathing in the cold air was like a refreshing slap to the face. Some winters mornings it is just great to be alive, and outside.
Frost and Ice in the Ouse Valley
Making my way to the Old Locks, a Raven croaked overhead, my first of the year, briefly seen, as the jet black behemoth of a corvid swept out of sight over one of the hawthorn hedges. Greenfinch and Goldfinch twitter about at the tops of the bushes, while thrushes skittered about in the undergrowth.
Beyond the Aqueduct, on the full flowing River Ouse, a pair of winter visiting Goosander swam, the male sleek and white with a metallic green head, the female, drabber, but beautiful, with her Orange crested head. Usually quick to flight on this stretch, the stayed for a few moments to let me admire them. In the trees across the murky water, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed out an early sign of spring for all to hear. The echoing sound, one of my personal favourites at this time of year.
Arriving at the frozen waters of the floodplains ice stretched out across much of the water. The few patches of still open water heavy with wildfowl. Spotted around the edges, precariously hanging sheets of ice clung to the vegetation, evidence of past flooding. Occasional crashes signalling the end to the remaining vestiges of the last heavy rain, no longer frozen in time.
Egrets I’ve had a few
Distantly, across the water, two Great White Egrets lifted into the air, landing in the near by bare trees, a third bird suddenly appeared behind them heading East, it was quickly joined by one of the first birds. While the remaining bird dropped back down to the cold margins, later he too would follow the path East. (I regret the heading now).
The silence of the frost was occasionally disturbed by the incredible noise of a large gaggle of Greylag geese, who seemed to be under constant disturbance on the campsite, and regularly took to the air, in a huge flock. Distantly gulls squabbled over morsels picked up from the local recycling centre.
Flocks of Lotties
The stilt pits held more open water than the rest of the nature reserve, and ducks certainly filled the edges, mostly the regular common birds, but 3 Pochard, tightly sticking together, another patch year tick.
Following the path beyond the Viaduct hide a party of Long-tailed Tits (lotties) fed constantly in one of the ancient oaks. The magnificent tree standing watch over the valley’s water since before there was any. As I stood and watched the tiny birds, pecking away in the old oak, I must have looked strange as quite a few people passed me by, but not one stopped to ask me what I was watching.
Sadly, after leaving these tiny lollypops behind, the last of the sun left me behind. A thick layer of solid white clouds began to mass over the skies, and the light began to fail, for photography purposes anyway, becoming dull and flat. Thinking this would be a good time to head home, I began the trudge back.
Last frosty moments of excitement
Thankfully the walk back was spotted with moments of interest.
A Red Kite, effortlessly soaring over the “pony” fields, behind the farm hide. Twisting and turning low in the white clouds, before drifting off across the frozen reserve.
The long staying female Stonechat, sharing the field with the horses, flitting about the fallen logs and dead trees.
A lone Jay (my third and final patch year tick) flew across the river, by the Aqueduct, briefly alighting in one of the bare trees, before heading on further into Northamptonshire.
Remaining Images from Frost and Ice in the Ouse Valley
Please note linked bird names take you to my gallery pages (Urban Lake Photography), where many can be purchased.
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