10 January 2010

Ice, snow, bikes and birds...

I don’t know about you but I’m getting just a little bored with the weather so far in 2010. Ice, snow, sleet, slush and even a touch of rain today, I’ve put up with it all over the past week and I’m ready for a change! Problem is, it looks like we’ve got at least another week of it to come. Great!


My cycling year started off steadily and then got even more steady. The roads and cycle paths on Monday, and again on Tuesday, morning were very icy. By Tuesday evening I was cycling home in snow. On Wednesday morning things had deteriorated to such an extent that Lynda didn’t like the idea of driving to work - we both chose to walk.

The walk to work.

Lynda, enjoying the snow!

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday I was back on the bike and actually starting to enjoy the adrenalin rush from riding on packed snow and ice. The minor roads were not so good but the cycle paths were not only smooth but offered a surprising amount of grip from the packed snow. By the end of the week I’d clocked up 60 miles. It’s not my best mileage for a week's commuting but at least I’ve been able to get a few miles under my belt.


This morning I was faced with a decision - get out birding for a couple of hours or stay in the warmth of the house watching the snow fall and the freezing cold wind batter the trees, and anything else in it’s path. I rather enjoyed my walk, even if it was cold and a little thin on the ground bird wise!

As pretty much all still water is now frozen solid in the Trent Valley I decided to spend a little time in search of woodland species. With the roads still not fully free of ice in places I chose to head to Elvaston Castle - it’s close to home and I could reach it easily on roads that had been gritted. In a little over 2 hours of birding I managed to locate a total of 31 species, five of which were new for the year.

Elvaston Castle, and the frozen lake.

With the two lakes being almost completely frozen over, as expected, waterfowl were very thin on the ground with just Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Teal and Mallard being recorded. Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Kestrel each gave brief views but didn’t hang around for long and the only gulls were a group of 36 Black-heads that were roosting on the ice of the main lake. Robins were much in evidence with at least 12 being noted; no doubt making the most of the food that people put out around the woodland paths here. A number of Redwings also showed well as they feed in small groups around the woods and allowed much closer views than usual. Three Treecreeper were busy searching for food until they all met up on the same tree. They then seemed more interested in the territorial battle that ensued than finding food to help them survive though yet another freezing cold day and night.

On reaching the bridge over the main lake I set up my own mini feeding station for the birds and put out a mix of seed and crushed peanuts. Within moments the birds were queuing up in the trees waiting for me to retreat to a safe distance. In total, 11 species came for food - Wood Pigeon, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Jay and Magpie. A single Goldcrest was flitting around in the trees here and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through without stopping. The nature reserve within the park was a little quiet but it did hold 2 Grey Heron, 6 Teal, a single Kestrel, a pair of Pheasant and 3 Bullfinch.

The nature reserve.

The addition of Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Jay and Nuthatch takes the “10-Mile List” onto 69 species.

Something's out there!

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