Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Springing out of Winter

Well, after the heavy snow of last week, then rain, then a rapid thaw over the weekend, water levels on the reserve are at last looking more respectable. Just look at the two photos of the ditch below, as it still was in January.......

........and how it was this morning.

Most of the ditches have recovered in the same way and while we still haven't got the typical surface water flooding across the grazing marshes, that we would expect at this time of the year, prospects are looking far better for the forthcoming Spring than they had done.
Below you can see one of several, long and shallow rills that were dug across the grazing marsh several years ago. They were only dug several inches deep and their main purpose is to benefit plover and wader chicks in the Spring by attracting various insects and flies to their muddy fringes as they gradually dry out. For the last two years these rills have been bone dry all year round.

All signs of last week's deep snow cover across the reserve have now disappeared, except along this one ditch for whatever reason. The snow is 2-3 ft deep along this stretch and will presumably take some time before it finally thaws away. It made me wonder about the fate of the Marsh Frogs that I normally see and hear along there through much of the year. Their built in time clocks must be saying that it is time to emerge from hibernation to begin breeding again and for any frogs that have hibernated along that stretch of ditch, will they be able to fight their way to the surface of the snow, will it cause them to perish?
And on the subject of Spring, today has felt almost Springlike, with good spells of warm sunshine and light winds. Walking the reserve this morning there were very encouraging signs that it is just round the corner. The first courtship displays of Lapwings were taking place across the meadows as they tumbled in the sky, issuing their lovely "peewit" calls as they did so. The skies all across the reserve rained with the beautiful song of many Skylarks and along the hedgerows, Chaffinchs helped swell the avian orchestra.
So hard to believe that just a few days ago we were enduring sub-zero temperatures and snow all day long.


  1. More or less explains here Derek. I have just walked round the estate with Tess and the sun was like Spring and most of the snow gone. Eagerness to get at my garden is urging me on now.

  2. Yesterday had many similar snow-lined ditches on Medway still Derek. In main, n/s oriented, less sun to melt but apparently that won't be all of reason- frost depth. Apparently heat of rapidly melting snow can push low soil temperatures lower. So, possibly, ground is still frozen in a relatively thin layer a few inches below fields (and rills)- eventually fields might well drain on surface a bit more when that thaws out. I would love the fields to stay as boggy as they are at moment, but won't be shocked if they dry out quickly in the spring.. Be interesting to hear how long yours stay wet.

    Deeper unpacked snow on ditch edges is better insulator, so won't have passed as much energy released through melting into contact topsoil so top inch remains cooler than rest of field- meaning melt relies on air surface temp effects more.

  3. Thanks for that Kev., most interesting. Yes, the grazing fields across the reserve are delightfully boggy and of great value to many birds at the moment. My long experience of the place tells me that several days of sun and wind in March/April will too quickly dry the place out again.

  4. A big difference in those before and after shots - you must be somewhat relieved to see that much water, even if it dries out soon. We are entering our dry season. I am watering the veg garden every morning now.

  5. It's got even wetter since I posted the above, Wilma, so we're well pleased.