Winter can be a difficult season in the best of years, and this winter has turned out to be more “difficult” than any I have personally experienced here. Not that that is much of a line to draw under as I have only lived on Skye since autumn 2011, but it is what it is.
Its as if suddenly winter has remembered what she is supposed to do: BE COLD – especially so, throw in snow and a few nasty storms – of the thunderous variety. You know the ones with heavy hail and gale force winds? Well, that is exactly what winter has been like this year to date.
I think Robert Louis Stevenson had it right when he wrote his poem “Winter”:
When all the snowy hill,
And the bare woods are still;
When Snipes are silent in the frozen bogs,
And all the garden garth is whelmed in mire,
Lo by the hearth, the laughter of the logs –
More fair than roses, lo, the flowers of fire!
My wood burner has certainly seem a fair bit of action this winter.
January bought much more snow than December, repeating the same format of post Christmas day with three or four inches of the white stuff. More than enough to cause the roads to become slippery with slush and the tracks to turn into ice rinks once a single vehicle had travelled along them preventing most from getting back up any hill unless they had four wheel drive and/or winter tyres.
The end of January saw “The Big Garden Bird Watch” take place. Organised by the RSPB, this is a weekend when anyone and everyone watches the birds in their garden, school field, park etc. and logs what they see over the period of an hour. Its great fun and if you’ve done it regularly over a period of years you can see just how the avian population in your area has evolved. However, when the much anticipated weekend arrived, we had storms, howling gales and torrential rain.
What right minded bird was going to venture across Glen Drynoch, from their roosting perches to the other side of the glen to their very well stocked feeding grounds…. the multiple feeders in my garden and gardens along the glen (just three that I know of)? Well quite a lot actually and the fact that you can choose the hour you monitor the birds, means several things may well have changed since the last hour that you monitored them. to cut a long story short, it was an interesting experience this year. The stalwarts of the garden, i.e. Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and House Sparrows, Coal Tits and Great Tits were undeterred by the weather. However, when the winds dropped, out came the Blue Tits, Siskin’s, and quite strangely the Chaffinches (I thought they were hardier than that) and our resident murmuration of Starlings all 20 of them.
Then, to add to the days drama, once the wind had dropped and the small bird population had expended, the male Sparrow Hawk came hunting – well it was pretty easy pickings to be fair!
So here we are in February and winters vengeful spirit has struck again, this time with thunderstorms accompanied by massive hailstones – so big you feel they could come through the velux windows. Then there’s the gales we were subjected to last week – 40pmh gusts here in Glen Drynoch, that’s not counting the ones that rocked the house and made the tiles clatter as it swept across the roof during the night.
So all in all its been a pretty difficult winter so far. There have been a few bright spots though:
Although I have to say that today is almost still and misty as well as quite mild. Wonder how long that will last.
Amazingly despite all this – the spring bulbs are starting to show their fresh green tips. The Snowdrops are flowering as are the Crocuses and even a few miniature Iris’. The days are getting longer too so its actually light when my alarm goes off at 7 a.m. and its still light at 6pm. Roll on Spring!