Saturday, January 10

Kingston walkabout - Remember the birds

I'm sure there's a streak of masochism somewhere in my personality.

After a week of frozen early morning workday starts and the inevitable car de-icing/warm-up routine, a Saturday lie-in would be a simple and highly attractive pleasure. But not today.

Somehow I'd arranged a very early appointment for my car's MOT. With recent weather & road conditions this required a pre-check that all lights/windows were clear, clean & functional. Plus the small matter of getting the motor properly warmed up prior to the car's CO2 check. Which for a diesel engine, mostly used for the commuter stop-start grind, requires a little high rev driving in an attempt to blow out some of the gunge that tends to build-up in the engine systems.

I woke to a picturesque Xmas card view of heavy frosts garlanding the trees, as if visited by snowfall, but in this case the result of an overnight freezing fog. The heaviest sign of frost so far this season.

Hence early morning sub zero temperatures found me driving up and down the local stretch of dual carriageway getting all things mechanical up to a reasonable operating temperature.

MOT sorted, it meant I was able to clear my normal Saturday chores earlier than usual, leaving time for a few stolen pleasures, during which myself and the collie wandered off to revisit an area near Kingston, along the Avon Valley Footpath south of Ringwood, and east of the River Avon.

Its not a huge area to roam over and doesn't offer any real distance walks, but there is always a rich variety of wildlife along the way with pools, a lake and a river amongst a mix of heathland, hedgerow and mixed woodland. During Xmas I'd spotted a grey heron, various members of the duck/geese/swan families, solitary buzzards, and watched a fisherman landed a small jack pike from near the river ford (just why do pike always look so p*ssed off?)

If you'd come across myself and dog today, you would have found me grinning as I recalled childhood experiences. Carefully making a slip-slide traverse of a wide frozen pool. A wide bare mud dip in the land in summertime. Today transformed into a skating rink of boot depth frozen water. Half remembered skills flooded back as I carefully made my way across, dog ordered 'slow to heel', as he learnt a new skill. Better that than risk a headlong dash with inevitable loss of four pawed traction. His pride couldn't take the ignomy of that; And I didn't fancy the potential vet's bill.

Unsurprisingly the lake was mostly frozen. It provided a near unique opportunity to sneak out onto the thick ice, dog safe on the shore, in an attempt to get a photo of frost on the lake's edge. That was until I heard an ominous sound and looking down saw three lengthening cracks working their way out from my position. Aware of the potential risk, I hadn't strayed far out from lakeside, but it was enough to get wet boot & trousers if things worsened. Discretion required a careful but rapid retreat back to terra firma.
(The Lake photographed from The Lake)
Courtesy of my latest piece of gear I could measure the land temperature at -2°C. Stopping at the river's ford, current strong despite the water's frozen edges, I checked the water reading at a positive balmy 3°C.
(River's edge)

Somehow today I managed to resist the urge to pop in for a warming dip. Instead we retraced our steps. Or breath forming clouds before us as we wandered through the frozen landscape. Birds darting in and out of the hedgerows. Their normal caution discarded with the need find scarce but so essential food to endure this extended cold spell.

Pleasure for man & dog. A dangerous time for wildlife.

We returned home - the dog to his 'well-done' dog biscuit; Myself to a tot of whiskey in a hot coffee.

But firstly I made sure the bird seed hoppers were full & the various bird baths cleared of ice and refilled with fresh water.

A simple action. But a possible life saver for some of our feathered co-travellers.

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good to see you out John. Glad you had fun. Unfortunately it is warming up. Fantastic photos. Dawn
Nice post John. Those bnirds need all the help they can get.

Of couse, it you walked with a selection of stoves you could have melted water for them :-)
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