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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Life Intervenes, Sometimes (1 Viewer)

Avid readers of my ramblings will recall that I'm blessed with three wonderful children and an equally wonderful wife. You may also recall that none of them really share my love of standing still in mud staring at trees. Each week is partially taken up with 'Dad duties' and occasionally they encroach upon the weekend- which was always 'Dad time' when they were younger. Last weekend was one such time, when youngest child needed a lift to his (socially- distanced) tennis match and eldest child needed a lift to work, both days. I don't really mind as the tennis pro is 14 and soon enough will reach the stage where he would die of shame if seen in public with his old Dad. I especially cherish my time with my eldest, who at 18 is past the 'dies of shame' stage but all too soon will be striking out into the world on her own. Such was my weekend.

The blow was softened significantly in the knowledge that I had booked Monday and Tuesday off work. Monday, sadly, was a write- off as my ability to watch the superbowl then function with 4 hours sleep is perhaps 25 years behind me. Perhaps time to accept reality. Didn't help that the Chiefs lost. Then my wife's car broke down, and I was given the task of driving her into the frozen wilderness of Cumbernauld. I'm prone to exaggeration, occasionally, but there is a clear line on the motorway where normal weather stops and the Cumbernauld micro- climate starts. It isn't often you see a snowplough with the driver's sun visor down. The day was then taken up with booking the car into a garage, then catching up on lost sleep. It was a very 2021 day off.

Tuesday dawned with a determination that I would make the most of it. It also dawned with a few inches of snow which had appeared overnight. The sky suggested more was on its way. The wife was working from home, so she went into work mode very early- and set up an exclusion zone around her. The snow decided that it had been teasing long enough, and began again. Proper snow, big fat flakes, cutting visibility down drastically. Rather than risk my in- laws' car, I dug out my rucksack and decided that a trip to Tesco could be an adventure. En route, bumped into my birding mate Bill, who was (im)patiently awaiting a bus to Strathclyde PArk, with a view to walking to Baron's Haugh. He'd been cooped up in Uddingston for long enough. As we chatted, he was set to start walking, such is his sense of adventure, when his bus finally arrived. Thankfully, as his sense of adventure occasionally gets him into peril...

Once I did manage to get out, I realised that there would be no long wanders across fields to my home village- Halfway, in Cambuslang for anyone who knows South Lanarkshire. This was definitely an Uddingston trip, and you know, I benefitted from it.

The air was cold enough to be felt when breathing in, but not a painful cold. The snow shower had passed, and the sun shone brightly, but without much warmth. The snow was lying thick enough that it compacted well and offered grip, of sorts. A walk down to the River Clyde got moorhen and little grebe. I nicknamed the latter 'Drabchicks' as they looked exceptionally dull in the sunlight. A buzzard called, but stayed out of sight. A brief chat with Bill's wife on the riverbank reminded me of the tip- off he had given me for siskin- clearly established as 2021's bogey- bird.

A cut- off from the river path saw me skirt the edge of playing fields, the sound of kids sledging (that is, going downhill on sledges, not giving each other verbal abuse about cricket) and the sight, bizarrely, of 2 blokes doing goalkeeper training in the snow. I kept to the perimeter wall which formed the ancient boundary of a long- defunct estate, and broke virgin snow with each footstep. The noise of the kids (and footballers) faded as I focused on any noises coming from the woods. My ears tuned out my own breathing and the soft- crunch of boots-on-snow. Not to be too dramatic, but I felt good, I was outdoors, and my senses were attuned. The kids laughter had also made me feel good, and the sunlight clearly improved my mood. Birdlife was limited to robins and blackbirds low down, with one incredibly noisy wren. Corvids dominated the upper branches of the trees as I made slow progress up the field. A glance down and I saw that I had reached a notoriously marshy area. The depth of snow meant that it compacted enough that my feet stayed dry.

Great tits and blue tits engaged in vocal warfare, and I had a strange dichotomy of a cold, winter day and the noises of a nascent spring. A detour around a half- covered bramble patch and I had reached the treeline, and the start of the area where siskin had been seen. (not by me, naturally) A glance up to get my bearings, and I saw a roe deer standing stock still, staring at me. I froze, not wanting to spook it. After an age, it turned sharply and bolted towards where the tree cover was thicker. Maybe it was the fact I was 'off- piste' and off- trail, but there was something that made this roe deer a bit more special than usual.

Further into the trees, birdlife became far more busy. A massed flock of 20 blue tits were joined by a single male reed bunting. Not a year tick, but still a really good bird to get in what was still, essentially, an urban area. Also, the male is far more visually impressive than the female.

This incidentally, was within about 50 feet of the massed assortment of kids.

Further trudging and the going got more difficult as the gradient increased. Plenty of deer tracks in the snow, and the live version appeared in front of me and crashed away through the undergrowth. No siskin appeared, sadly, but I didn't feel too frustrated. All to soon my upwards progress got me to the boundary fence of the housing estate, and I paused for breath. A look downhill, over the river and onwards gave me a winter wonderland vista. A quick glance close in, and 3 roe deer stood patiently watching me, as if waiting for me to leave before getting on with their day. A buzzard flew relatively close overhead, and a cloud of jackdaws rose from the trees to annoy it. The roe deer were still waiting, and I duly obliged and made my way slowly but surely home.

So, no ticks, not even a huge selection of birds, but an incredibly enjoyable day out regardless. More Dad duties this weekend (involving Swedish furniture for middle child) but I've still got the feel- good glow from my Tuesday in the snow.

Stay healthy, stay safe.

John
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Another wonderfully written piece, John. Evoking long distant memories of when I actually last did some birding! There is something special about birding in the snow - ambient noise is deadened by the soft insulation of a blanket of snow. There is little traffic. The world is more silent and therefore more peaceful. There is also a stillness on the ground as leaf litter and grasses are frozen into position unaffected by breezes. It’s not surprising that in the middle of this stillness and worldly silence, punctuated only by the sounds of kids, you should lock in to a stare with a deer, also frozen in its footsteps, and find it a special moment in time!
 

Green Sandpiper

Well-known member
Scotland
Another wonderfully written piece, John. Evoking long distant memories of when I actually last did some birding! There is something special about birding in the snow - ambient noise is deadened by the soft insulation of a blanket of snow. There is little traffic. The world is more silent and therefore more peaceful. There is also a stillness on the ground as leaf litter and grasses are frozen into position unaffected by breezes. It’s not surprising that in the middle of this stillness and worldly silence, punctuated only by the sounds of kids, you should lock in to a stare with a deer, also frozen in its footsteps, and find it a special moment in time!
Thank you so much Deb!! Thats exactly what I was trying to say about the 'sound' of snowy days! The sledging kids sounded happy, the two maniacs playing football sounded happy, so maybe all that positivity was catching. Being out in it evoked lost memories of snowy winters when I was a kid, proper childhood memories, maybe from about 6 years old- the age I could go out to play on my own- up to when teenagerism afflicted me. The (lost) joys of growing up in a village surrounded by farmland!
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

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