Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The frozen north



It could be Minnesota or Hokkaido, but it isn't. There are no Great Grey or Blakiston's Fish Owls here. But snow is a great leveller of landscapes, and a white-out has the capacity to change your perspective in more ways than one. This frozen setting is north London, where we are now apparently in the grip of the worst British winter for 30 years, and after trudging for miles through the snow to work and back today it certainly feels like it.

In the absence of large owls en route in Alexandra Park (pictured), I contented myself with a Water Rail obliged to feed in woodland in a small stream, open still for the moment, along with Great Spotted Woodpecker and a selection of waterfowl and gulls largely forced to stand on ice (which now covers more than 95 per cent of both the reservoir and the boating pond). Among the larids are a number of young Common Gulls still retaining their juvenile scapulars, while others are much more advanced into first-winter plumage. A single first-winter Herring Gull stands out among them like a sore thumb.

No really big surprises in the morning, but the long-staying young Jackdaw (now looking more adult-like) was again present and there were three more year-ticks for my Alexandra Park patchlist:
34. Water Rail.
35. Little Grebe.
36. Song Thrush.

The evening walk home in the dark surprised me with a single species - a Chaffinch calling as it flew over the east side of the park.

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