Every once in a while a day comes along which stands out not just from the normal run of things, but even amongst the good days. A real jewel. It seems to me that I’ve been very fortunate lately, in that the year just gone was unusually rich in days of that kind, and this day was one of the best.
It was a Monday early in December, a scheduled day off. In September, seeing this date on the calendar is likely to make my hackles rise and have me moaning about the pointless use of a precious holiday in the darkest days of the year, when I would much prefer an extra day in the Spring. But as the date actually approaches, I do begin to look forward to an opportunity to get out. Last year I went to the Lakes and climbed some fells, but this year, full of cold, I decided to restrict myself to a local stroll.
It was a cold morning, with a hard frost and a blanket of mist, although both had substantially cleared by the time I had dropped A and B off at the station and sent Little S off to school.
Burtonwell Wood and Hagg Wood.
Black-headed gulls were lined up along the spine of the roof of Row Hulls, a field barn, probably discussing the blue skies, low sun and the fine morning to come.
But then a Black-backed gull landed amongst them and many of the gossipers fled.
The Golf Course.
We’d had several successive sharp, frosty days and I was heading down to Leighton Moss thinking that the meres might be frozen over. When I arrived at the visitor centre I was greeted by a very helpful volunteer who filled me in on all of the more exciting birds I might see, but also warned me that most of the paths were flooded.
The meres were frozen, aside for a few odd open stretches.
I waded down to Grizedale and Jackson hides. Apparently there was a Green-winged Teal on show in one of the meres at that end of the reserve, not that I spotted it.
There were lots of common-or-garden Teal and Pintail, Wigeon, and Shoveler to see. Also geese flying overhead and this solitary Cormorant preening itself…
…and then drying-off in the sunshine.
I was heading now for the causeway and the Public Hide and spotted this Heron…
….in a field very close to both the path and the road. My standard procedure with nervous birds like herons is to take a photograph, then move forward a step or two, then take another picture and so on. But this time I didn’t need to. To my astonishment, the Heron slowly and deliberately paced towards and then past me.
The causeway looks dry here, but it wasn’t further down. My shoes proved to be quite waterproof, although not always high enough on my ankle to prevent a little icy dampness creeping into my socks.
When I reached the Public Hide a chap told me that he had been watching two Otters running on the ice, one quite nearby and the other across the far side of the mere. I settled down for a cup of tea from my flask and didn’t have to wait too long before…
…an Otter briefly popped up, trying, it seemed, to jump through a small hole in the ice on to the surface. It tried a few times, but then disappeared again.
I had originally planned to walk right around to Lower Hide, but had been warned that the path was badly flooded and therefore closed. I went a little way in that direction anyway.
Before turning back to the Public Hide. For some reason I decided to have one more look, not from the hide itself but from a small viewing platform alongside it. Rustling in some reeds nearby had me scanning the area just in front of me when…
…an Otter popped up very close by. I had time to take three photos, but then it was gone, only to reappear by a post right in front of the hide. This was by far and away the best sighting of an Otter I’ve had at Leighton Moss and also the best anywhere in many, many years.
I set-off back along the causeway with an added spring in my step.
I continued my wander through Trowbarrow Quarry and along Moss Lane.
Natural England’s plans for the area around Haweswater have upset some people in the village. A boardwalk will be removed and some Beech trees clear-felled. I think that these trees are the ones ear-marked for removal…
I understand why people don’t like it when trees are felled, but personally I’ve always assumed that this is a plantation in which the trees are too close together and have grown tall and scrawny as a result. Not at all like some of the splendid, huge Beeches which the National Trust chopped down in Eaves Wood a few years ago.
I paused on the apparently condemned boardwalks for another tea stop and watched a couple more Cormorants fishing in the lake.
Incidentally, the post’s title is more Ted Hughes, from his poem ‘The Otter’. You can find it in it’s entirety here.