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.
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.