Thursday, 2 February 2012

Life in the Freezer

RSPB Pulborough Brooks

A feeble sun, risen barely above the horizon casts long shadows on hard frozen ground. On the south part of the brooks, in the lee of the wind there is such silence that every sound is amplified; from the blackbirds turning over leaves under almost ever hedgerow to the sound of the stoat tip-toeing along the bank of a frosty ditch.  I feel like I am the only person here.

A solitary cloud breaks up the endless ice blue of the sky, moving meekly along above a threadbare willow that creaks lazily in a gentle breeze. The ground is concrete hard, and most of the flooded meadows have succumbed to Jack Frost. Lapwings, driven from the water's edges, forage busily  in fields for insects, mingling with flocks of nervous wigeon, arrived from Russia, to whom the temperatures must seem positively balmy. Two snipe hunker down in a nearby ditch, before a tiff send one shuffling unhappily off to a less favourable spot. A shoveler looks on from the water's edge, unmoved.

Behind a hedgerow a large herd of black fallow deer gather, some lazy with sleep, others jumpy. I move downwind of them, and away from a chattering group of birders. As I expected the deer are driven further along and closer to me, so close I can see the long lashes of a doe above sad looking eyes. We watch each other for quite some time, before a far away dog barks and the startled herd flee away to the north. 

A goldcrest fusses acrobatically about the willows, watched by a curious squirrel. Somewhere nearby another calls, and then another. While the goldcrest flits from branch to branch a treecreeper, white breast flashing in the dappled light, contents himself with the grubs that have moved into the light on the trunk. 

Even the larger meadows are given over almost in their totality to ice, a freeze that seems to have happened so suddenly that ripples have frozen into the surface of the water. Far away a flock of greylag geese, with a few white fronted geese secreted among feed contentedly, ignoring the presence of a juvenile peregrine tiercel who preens himself on a molehill. There are few waterfowl for him to drive up, a solitary shelduck huddles up on a frosty bank, an injured wing folded awkwardly across his back. 

Everywhere groups of tits flit back and forth between trees, coal, blue, great and long tailed are much in evidence; as are numerous house sparrows

Above the fields to the north east a kestrel hunts, now hovering, now swooping, circling and hovering again.

On the path leading back south a cacophony of cackles erupt from a flock of fidgety crows, and the falcon peregrine is driven up and away at great speed; arcing round in a loop she flips upside down, a flash of black and white streaked underbelly, yellow talons as sharp as daggers lash out and she is gone behind the tree line. 

Breath forms clouds in the air, and the chill works its way into the bones. The cafe's bread pudding and warmth calls me inside.


  1. Great blog, will be back to read more :-)

  2. Thanks so much. Was wondering if anyone was reading! :)


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