To me, sunsets were the best feature of the weather in December. Cold clear days ending with a blood-drained sun retreating slowly into a silent night of gathering frost, while grey days ending with just a tint of pink in a lead-grey sky. Best of all were the days of stillness and quiet, which weren’t present in summer. You can feel the embalmed stillness of midwinter air when Mother nature was asleep and at peace with herself. We took these beautiful sunsets from Teal Pool Hide. I could sit here forever but darkness was slowly blanketing the reserve, it was bitterly cold and we need to find our way out of the reserve.
Red sky at night; shepherds delight,
Red sky in the morning; shepherds warning
"The eeuenynge maad, ye seien, It shal be cleer, for the heuene is lijk to reed; and the morwe, To day tempest, for heuen shyneth heuy, or sorwful."
"When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and louring."
There were many later citations of the saying in literature, including this from Shakespeare, in Venus & Adonis, 1593:
"Like a red morn, that ever yet betoken'd wreck to the seaman - sorrow to shepherds." A red sky at night meant that the setting sun was sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles, indicating high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically followed by good weather. Deep red sunsets were often associated with dry, settled weather and high pressure. But the key sign was in the red sky around the sun and not the colour of the cloud itself.
Red sky in the morning could be interpreted in a different way. As the sun rose at a low angle in the east, it light up the impending clouds associated with a weather front coming in from the west. It might indicate that rain was on its way and due to arrive later in the day, hence the "shepherd's warning".
Apart from the lovely sunsets, the highlight of our visit was when we finally came face to face with the bird of the season, a pair of Waxwings. Woo..hoo. As soon as we entered the car-park, a group of photographers with their impressive cameras were literally camped in the middle of the road and their lenses honed on something in the trees. We immediately knew what it was and quickly joined them. We rattled a few shots before the birds flew deeper into the bushes.
Then only I remembered to say hello to the group, sorry guys :-). Paul introduced himself to Babe while I nattered with Andy and Kay whom I’d not seen for ages. I gave them a Xmas card which I’d brought along with me. Then the birds flew out of hiding and started feeding on the berries, very close to the visitor centre. The cameras came out blazing again. After posing for their adored admirers, they flew back into the bushes for a break. We left them alone and continued our adventure.
Along the path, we were entertained by flocks of birds flying from tree to tree. We saw Goldfinches, Siskins and Bullfinches feeding on the alder trees. By Goose Pool, a Tree-creeper was running up and down a birch tree. Robins were around us, harassing for food. I must remember to bring some mealworms the next time. Having them feeding from your palm was a real treat.
Outside Baldwin Hide, a flock of Redpolls were feeding on the alder. Long tailed tits parties were wandering through the winter woods, communicating with excited thrilling contact calls. We checked out Baldwin Hide and the island was still submerged. We were pleased when this male Golden Eye were swimming and diving very close to the hide. We were amazed when suddenly he gave us a mating display, either a female was nearby or to warn us off.
We continued towards East Marsh Hide where we spotted the female Golden Eye. Hundreds of Greylags and Canada Geese were swimming from one end of the lake to another. A few were grazing on the banks. Babe spotted this hybrid among the flock as they were about to take off. And then, they were off making noisy honking calls as they flew over us in the V-formation.
We made our way back to the car and the Waxwings were still entertaining their attentive audience. And we just had to join them. Of the Nordic invaders, they were one of the most beautiful birds. In its peachy, sandy wash, black face mask and outrageous pink crest, it was also unmistakeable. They brought an exotic touch of summer warmth to the cold, grey days of winter.
This winter had all the hallmarks of being an invasion year. If there was a poor food supply or harsh weather in Scandinavia, more of the birds will arrive than usual and this year looked like a bumper year. That was supposed to be bad news because Waxwings were believed to be harbingers of glacial weather. For moi, bring it on. Flocks of waxwings (or according to the website New Zealand Birds – an earful, a grosbeaks, or a museum of waxwings) were most welcome and I’m looking forward to the Arctic weather :-).
At home, I made myself comfortable to watch one of my favourite players, Mark Selby capped his return to world number one by beating Shaun Murphy (world no. 4) 10-6 in the final of the UK Snooker Championship and claimed the biggest title of his career. It was a thoroughly engrossing battle that went the way of 'The Jester from Leicester'. I was horrified when he met another one of my favourite, Neil Robertson in the quarter-final where he came from 4-0 down to overcome ‘The Thunder from Down-under’ 6-4. There was also a new kid on the block, 17-year-old Belgian Luca Brecel, (world number 74). I will definitely keep an eye on him in the future.
I took leave on Friday for our festive trip to Solihull to finalise our Xmas shopping. It was one of my guilty pleasures to pop over to this shopping mecca to check out our favourite mall, Touchwood, and window shopping. At Le Creuset, I oohed and aahed over the glistening cast iron cookwares, dreaming of my next purchase. At Edinburgh Woollen Mill, we bought chocolates and biscuits at reduced prices. There was a very small German Christmas market scattered around Mell Square. I bought a lovely iron wind-chime from one of the stalls to add to my collection.
Then we stepped into Touchwood and our first stop was Lakeland where we came out with nothing!!! We browsed in Jessop cos Babe was checking out some tripods, in the Apple store for the latest I-pad and my favourite shoe shop in the world, Schuh. I was very tempted to buy one of the outrageous but delicious pair. What stopped me was that I’m saving for my trip back to Malaysia.
I wanted to have lunch at Yo Sushi but it was full. So we checked out the Xmas decorations in John Lewis which was very mediocre. That was a big surprise especially when they had 2 lovely advertisements shown regularly on tv. Even the baubles for the tree didn’t have the wow factor. I bought a Geisha bauble which wasn’t Christmassy at all. Before we left, I popped over to another one of my favourite shops, M & Co., tried on 4 dresses and came out with a lovely summery tunic!!! None of the wintry stuff caught my eye.