There’s been a bitter east wind this week. The first part of the river walk is very exposed and chilly – even wearing two woolly hats and multiple scarves didn’t make much difference. One advantage is that the mud froze and made walking easier, and the river level went back to normal very quickly after a long period of flooding. Birds seem to conserve their energy in this weather and there is little song, though I did hear a very fine early blackbird trilling away at dusk on a TV aerial in New Road.
Wind sounds were impressive though. The first willow past the boathouses always surprises me with the strength and full tone of the sound of wind in its branches. On the far side below Snipe Meadow the skeletal trees creaked and shuddered with each bone-chilling gust. Close to the bank the wavelets lapped against driftwood trapped by overhanging branches.
I watched a swan taking off into an oncoming wind, rising painfully slowly above the reeds before banking away downwind as soon as it could. There were a couple of flocks of lapwings, redwings, fieldfares and the usual groups of pied wagtails. There was a grey wagtail foraging in the frozen weir, disappearing among some large stones where icicles hung from thin branches. Two little egrets flew off lazily as I got near to the lock, and a male mandarin duck took off from the water near Snipe Meadow. Most years there is breeding pair on that stretch, though they were unlucky last year.
After seeing a kingfisher in the same tree for several days in a row there were a couple of days with no sightings. As the water gets less muddy there must be more places to fish, and the stream coming in from Glapthorn is very clear. I sat on a fallen tree trunk yesterday and saw one shoot by downwind and downstream. It happened again today and as it appeared to land a bit further down the bank I walked back to look for it. I had no luck and came back again to just in time to see a bird taking off from the very same tree trunk I’d been sitting on!
The wind has now veered round to the south and much warmer weather is forecast. There should much more birdsong, pairing and early nesting behaviour.