Reasons To Be Cheerful

Sunrise Over a frosty Burley Moor

 

It's early Saturday morning and it's shaping up for a spectacular sunrise. Below the blue grey cloud a warm bar of fiery orange starts to flicker. "This is going to be good" I think to myself as I rack my brain for the fastest and best summit I can reach. But between locking the back door and reaching my chosen peak, something has gone awry.

 

From seemingly nowhere a thick cloud of rain has blown in. Having arrived it's reluctant to move on, it doesn't. The sun, my enthusiasm and my faith in the BBC weather app are all washed away by this stubborn nimbostratus.

 

By contrast, Sunday's dawn offers a good frost under a clear sky with a heavy grey bar of cloud on the horizon. I acknowledge the gamble as I lock the back door, giving myself a fifty fifty chance. I have committed myself now and all I can do is hope the thick grey line travels slower than the ascent of the sun.

 

My faith is rewarded and restored as I witness a cracking sunrise over Lower Lanshaw Reservoir. The textures and shapes of the moor in this light and the frost are bewitching. I wish I could get lost here for the rest of the morning. I can't, I mustn't. There is a roast to tend to and children to entertain, it takes more discipline than I know to remove myself from this unique and ephemeral landscape.

 

Monday was the finest day of the week, pristine skies with the slightest hint of warmth starting to come through. I decided to take the boys to WWT Martin Mere. It was a first for all of us. What a place! I particularly love the sense of openness and the blurred boundaries between wild and captive. It's such an inspiring place to introduce kids to the natural world. Of course, when asked, the play park was declared as the best bit!

 

I had two big hopes for the week. One, experience a murmuration; two, spot a Hawfinch. Hawfinches have been spotted across the UK this winter in numbers not seen since the nineteen seventies. Good numbers are reported to be hanging around Castle Howard. Time and conditions dictated a choice between my two ambitions. My head said Hawfinch, my heart said murmuration.

 

So on Thursday I found myself heading down to Potteric Carr in Doncaster where there were recent reports of a 100-200,000 Starling Murmuration!

 

Potteric Carr is a Wildlife Trust reserve and an added bonus of the trip was that I could get a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust family membership. As I stepped out of the car at Potteric Carr the sun broke through the cloud and everything turned gold. It was like a celestial seal of approval for resisting the Hawfinch. I handed over my membership money with a smile on my face, convinced I'd be in for a spectacular display.

 

As I stepped out of the visitor centre and into the reserve the sun disappeared and a dullness descended like a wave.

 

As I wandered the reserve I was continually teased by flashes of extraordinary light which would vanish as quickly as it appeared. By the time I reached my first (and last) hide the greyness had set in. I was still hopeful for a breathtaking murmuration and it wasn't long before I was rushing back to the visitor centre for a prime view. As I did I caught sight of startled Roe Buck leaping through the reed beds. A majestic sight. In the end, I would have to settle with this being the highlight as the Starlings, like the sun, had gone elsewhere!

 

Today's (Friday) weather is like a medley of the week's weather. Walking Alfie around village started in rain and borderline darkness and finished in dazzling sunshine. The wildlife highlight of the day, possibly the week, was seeing four, five may be more Greenfinch in tree off of Burely House, where Langford Lane meets Back Lane. I can't recall the last time I saw that many at once. In fact sightings of any Greenfinch have been rare in recent years. It is certainly a reason to be cheerful.