Its January, normally the time of Jack Frost and blankets of white, mittens and snowballs…well not th
El Nino seems to have put paid to all that white stuff in East Anglia for 2016 , which could be one of the warmest (not to mention wettest and windiest!) on record in the UK.
The mild weather also has our plantlife well and truly fooled, with primroses and daffodils nodding alongside snowdrops and aconites. So, instead of a classic snowy winter’s scene, this January’s blog is of a winter’s walk amongst the silver birch catkins at Narborough.
January’s photo marks a return to home ground, both in genre and location. This frosted winter blossom image was taken in Nar Cottage’s garden and is of one of our new winter cherry trees “prunus x subhirtella autumnalis, planted to help winter insects, and it certainly seems to be flourishing, even in its first year of growth.
Even though we have had thick snow on the ground for a week and a half now there are still faint augurs of spring all around us if you look hard enough.
This delicate yet plucky little flower is a winter aconite and is one of the very first herbs to flower in the new year; peeking its cheery yellow buttercup like head bravely up even when it has to tunnel through thick snow to do so, when all the while the more famously celebrated snowdrops are still little timid shoots only just starting to appear.
Eranthis Hyemals is perennial herb and a member of the hellebores family. It was first introduced in the 16th Century before naturalising itself in England and can now be enjoyed in many parks and woodlands, particularly in the East of England.
The little aconite is a symbol of hope when all around is still bleak and harsh and, for that, I love it all the more.
Just as we were being lulled into the idea of a mild winter, the snow struck, and with a vengeance. In rural mid-Norfolk we’ve been experiencing night temperatures of minus 12 or so, making it extra tough for birds to survive. I put out extra food and make a point of melting the bird bath as its also important that the birds are able to find fresh water to drink and keep clean, and salt puddles of melted snow water on the roads is not a good option.
This picture is one of one of about 7 blackbirds that visited the garden simultaneously. Many garden birds are highly territorial, so I was careful to spread the food out in patches which helped keep squabbles to a minimum and save precious energy.
There was a specific image I’d had in mind to post for this month ever since my move to Norfolk in February, which was of a frosty holly packed full of beautiful red berries taken in the plantation where I often walk my dog which is a copse full of holly as well as oak and beech.
Well it seems both frosty days and, more worryingly, berries are in short supply. When I first started to notice the absence of any bright berries I put it down to the unusually mild Autumn we’ve had with lots of rain but little in the way of true wintry weather and assumed the harvest would just be a little late.
But it is now only 4 days away from Christmas and still only one or two bushes in the whole copse have berries, and even then it is very often just a sad, small, lone anaemic-looking berry.
This year Norfolk again had very high numbers of seasonal migrants and waxwings due, it is believed, to a berry/fruit harvest failure in Scandinavia. If my fears are realised and our berries have indeed failed too, then it may well be a tough Christmas for many of our over wintering birds and they will need all the help they can get.
Nature has been capricious this spring with early promises of warmth vanishing back into chilly weather and rain, which of course we need badly. Nonetheless spring flowers have still been emerging and are still a sign of better weather to come..
We’ve had an exceptionally mild winter so far, but in December 2010 Britain was covered in snow. This photo of an adult ural owl on a snow covered branch was taken at the Hawk Conservancy Trust mid last December. Ural Owls are predominately creatures of the northern boreal forests and very used to snow, though there are smaller ural owl populations in the mountain forests of Southern Europe. They are closely related to tawny owls; both species are highly territorial and have a fierce reputation for agressive behaviour.
Since my wintery ural owl shot was taken, I have been fortunate enough to see and observe (from a safe distance!) an adult ural owl watching over its young fledgling in the mosquito -drenched Finnish midsummer.