Today it is Monday, a week since the second "Beast from the East" buried our countryside and gardens here in snow and ice.
But overnight the temperature has risen dramatically and that, combined with light rain, has seen the daylight expose a much more familiar landscape to our eyes. Large areas of grass in the gardens and meadows across the road, are already exposed and the pavements, so long dangerously cobbled with footprints frozen into ice, have already softened and are melting into the gutters. Birds, so long deprived of soft ground and waterways from which to source their food supplies, can hopefully begin to find some food again. Although this will probably not be the case for birds such as Herons and Egrets, they could still end up partially starving as waterways, flooded to twice or three times their width and depth, do not allow access to the fish within.
Yesterday, I risked driving along the narrow road across the marsh. It was indeed risky, covered along much of it's length in hard-packed ice and with a very deep ditch alongside it's whole length, not a lot of room for error there! I managed to get on to parts of the reserve and endured an arduous walk through snow drifts and across frozen areas of water. Because of the frozen conditions there were no waterfowl present, just small flocks of Skylarks, struggling to find any sustenance from grassland buried under snow, and an odd Snipe flying up from the inner parts of reed beds. It was a pretty bleak scenario but if nothing else, it gave me and little Ellie some much needed exercise.
Something that did fascinate me as I made my down the track that led to the reserve's barn, was dozens and dozens of empty snail shells. The grass alongside this track was quite thick and springy and the snow hadn't completely covered it, presumably allowing a member of the thrush family to gain access to the small, yellow snails hidden within, bring them out to the frozen ground and hammer them open.
This morning, now that the early rain has finished, I'm about to depart for the reserve again and with a mild and rainy week ahead forecast, guess it'll soon be a return to the more familiar territory of too much water and too much mud and hopefully, the return of many hundreds of wildfowl and waders.
Just returned and the good news was the sight of 850 White-fronted Geese and 520 Wigeon on the reserve, among other birds.