Monday 30 January 2012

Winter is here

The meteo has been predicting snow for some while, with an amber alert for today - so much so that Meteociel's server was struggling to cope with the load. At about 2pm today it started to snow - very fine, wet snow (snizzle?), just a few flakes at a time at first. Although the temperature was a degree or two above freezing, the snow quickly began to settle, and by 5:30pm there was a light covering.

Grandmont behind a curtain of falling snow
Now (9:30pm) we have about 2cm, although the weather station registers zero precipitation. Either we've had less than 0.3mm of liquid, or the snow is just too fine for the rain gauge to register.

We also have a red-legged partridge  (alectoris rufa) perdrix rouge sitting on the front doorstep. It didn't fly away when Tim opened the door to offer it a handful of bird food. It just ambled a couple of metres away from the door and returned to pick up the grain. This rather odd photo was taken with flash switched off, so as not to disturb the bird's digestion. The background is our crushed limestone path, with blobs of snow.

Can I come in for a warm?

Thursday 26 January 2012

Flocking Committees!

I was sitting in bed this morning with a mug of tea, watching the birds out of the window, when one of the flocks of Lapwings (or Green Plovers or Peewits if you are so inclined) muddled into view.
They seem to be birds of committee status... or a collections of politicians.

They were flying to the right... initially.... but then two decided to head back the way they'd come.
A few more followed them and then the rest of the flock...

First they flew to the right....
then they flew to the left...

No, wait.... at least three haven't followed... they are ploughing on steadily towards the right.
About turn the rest of the flock... they'd decided.

...then to the right. Again!

they had not yet come to a firm decision...
one, then a further two, then a group started to fly back the way they'd come...
and again the rest of the flock followed...
everyone this time!

No... a breakaway group from the middle went right this time! Followed by....

...the rest!

This happened about four more times... before, quite suddenly, as they were all flying left, as one they turned and flew strongly off to the right and disappeared behind the trees.

A few minutes later a smaller group flew left to right without wavering at all.
Flocking committees!*

There's always a rebel in any committee!

*A committee is a dark corridor up which ideas are lured and quietly strangled!

Wednesday 18 January 2012


Ten minutes ago I was watching the world out the bedroom window, as one does, and saw a splash just in front of me on the opposite side of the bief.
An underwater surge let me know where something was moving and a Water Vole [Arvicola amphibius] Campagnol amphibie or terrestre [I still lump them*] bobbed to the surface in the middle of the clump of Flag Iris. It then paddled fast towards our side.
A minute or two later it swam back across to the iris. At that point another vole leapt from about halfway up the opposite bank and swam furiously at the other, which dived immediately. There was then an underwater chase with 'our' vole eventually seeing the intruder off under the bridge. I was able to watch the whole event quite easily as the water has now returned to a nice clear state.
'Our' vole returned to the bank where we've seen it most often and sat for a couple of minutes looking fixedly toward the bridge, before turning and vanishing up the bank and into the vegetation.
Apart from the entertainment value, it is nice to know now that we have a 'population'.
No pictures... no camera... no time.

I've just glanced toward the bief and seen a vole scamper up the bank... wait, there are voles charging about again... someone is getting mighty upset... splashing through the shallows at the waters edge.

Went to fetch camera now I'm downstairs... cue for all to go quiet again!

And I've got things to do.... can't wait around all morning.

As it is much warmer today... and sunny.... it could be a pair, full of the joys of January?

* We probably get both Arvicola sapidus and A. terrestris in this area and they are pretty impossible to tell apart unless you've a skull to check the dentition against!