Yes, dear reader, your barmy blogger wandered round the reserve photographing it in the snow. Technically not in a blizzard as the wind wasn't strong enough. Though a 20 mph wind (gusting to 40 mph), minus 4 degree centigrade temperatures and subsequent wind chill made it feel like a blizzard to this southern softie.
I really take my hat off to people who live in cold climes. I couldn't begin to imagine temperatures well below minus 15 degrees centigrade. The worst I endured was the minus eight when I walked the three miles to work one morning in that horrible winter of 2009/2010; but it was flat calm, not a breath of wind. It was actually quite lovely and serenely quiet - virtually no cars. And as for wildlife camera men and women, sitting out in double digit minus temperatures, I can only admire them.
As you can imagine light conditions were pretty poor. My DSLR coped reasonably well, despite me first having it on the wrong setting, but the charge ran out halfway through, and your numptie blogger didn't take the spare battery. I had to switch to the bridge camera, with a subsequent loss of detail. Sigh.
Once again I've split the slideshow into sections. I'll put in place holders first then fill them out as time permits.
First we kick off with Moor Green lakes.
I think I was the only one fool enough to drive his car to the reserve car park. I reached it just before 11.00am, and the smooth snow surface suggested I was the only person to use the car park. When I left just before 14:00, I noticed the tracks of one other car. Driving out was interesting, grip was almost non existent; but it was fine once I got the old jalopy moving.
Moor Green Lakes regulars may enjoy photos of the car park under snow.
I'm not sure how much the bird life enjoyed the weather. Large portions of the lakes were iced over. All the birds were concentrated in the limited amount of clear water. Some braved the ice and stood on it.
South footpath and Hampshire reserve
Strictly this is out of sequence. I actually hopped over to Manor farm and made my way around the north shore of Manor lake north to the Pump Station. From there I walked up to the south footpath. However, it makes sense to keep photos of various areas together.
Fleet Hill farm
Not much to say really. It was snowy, it was icy, the ground was rock hard, and large areas of the ponds were frozen over. Water levels were high which made walking back to the culvert along the north shore of Stone Crusher lake a little interesting in walking boots.
First a little word of explanation. Fleet Hill farm has two entrances to it on the Longwater road. They are close together being bisected by the culvert and bridge over it. One entrance is to the north of the bridge, the other (unsurprisingly) to the south. The southerly entrance is also where the footpath begins or ends depending on your direction of travel.
I believe the Colnbrook flows through the culvert, and thence westward along a fairly straight channel until it meets the wooden footbridge, which it goes under. Thereafter it's westward course seems more natural (not that I have explored this area much) but is punctuated by lakes and ponds formed from gravel extraction.
When I first entered the reserve from the footpath between Manor farm and Moor Green Lakes, I noticed an amber flashing light above a blue vehicle in the far distance near the yellow bridge. I hauled off a shot of it but it meant part of my planned route was now shot. I wasn't about to wander around the reserve with heavy plant trundling around in the low visibility and foul weather.
However, I never spotted it again as I walked west along the south footpath or on my return eastward leg. Originally I thought the Inert driver had come in via the Longwater road entrance, but there was no sign of this when I got there. This could be the first instance of a ghost rider!
Addendum. Today (Friday) I took a closer look at the photo and zoomed in on the vehicle. It was attending to the sewage works. From about a kilometer away it looks as if it were near the yellow bridge
My original intention was to walk westward along the North embankment, thus having the wind to my back, then come back along the south footpath within the shelter of the trees. Now I did the reverse, but it meant walking into the raw, easterly headwind. The bit I dreaded the most, walking along the exposed ridge, was not pleasant. However, by then, two hours into the walk, my hands were accustomed to the cold (i.e. it didn't hurt when I took photos), but I realised my chin was numb. So I did the bleedin' obvious and covered it with my snood. DOH! It does make you appreciate what people endure in really, really cold regions of the plant.
Anyway, Manor farm was bleak, resembling tundra, but in miniature.The raw wind had scoured exposed areas of snow. Both Finch pond and Cormorant lakes were choppy due to the strength of the wind; not to the point of white horses, but still choppy with little mini ice floes. The ground was solid - which probably was why Inert were not working. Even so I had to be careful where I trod. Most of the puddles were complete frozen, but the odd deep one only had a crust which I could easily break through; not good in my hiking boots. I wanted to keep my toes toasty, so eschewed wellies.
The wind caused the dry, fine snow to form drifts up to 2 feet (60cm) deep. I can hear people from cold climes and Wales snorting in disbelief. 'What is this crazy Englishman going on about a drift 2 feet deep? That is nothing!' Anyway, regardless of depth, the drifts did cover the ice on some areas of deep water and also the sides of embankments; so I had to watch where I trod. I actually remember 20' (6m) drifts in Kent when I was a kid.
I've split the Manor farm part of the slide show into two sections. We start with the south part of Manor farm. Due to my somewhat erratic route this week, I've had to do some major rearranging of the photos to make it look like a seamless continuous walk.
Moving swiftly on to the northern secion of Manor farm taking in the north embankment, Hawthorn lake and the grasslands.
Most of the photos were taken with my bridge camera (due to numptie here forgetting the spare). The lens was now spotted with water from the fine, dry snow. Near the end of the slideshow the sharp eyed will notice a change in image quality. I took these photos with my DSLR at the beginning of the walk.
There was a surprising amount around. Many had to congregate in large groups of mixed species due to there being a limited amount of open water. Large areas of the lakes and ponds were frozen over.
I believe I spotted my first female Reed Bunting, and possibly a Snipe. The local birders have mentioned numerous Snipe around the reed beds, and I believe one flew over me today when I spooked it. I really must get a 4K head mounted webcam. I might look a right berk wandering around the reserve with it on, but I reckon I will capture many species on camera with it. After all, when I spook something, my head automatically turns towards it.
There were a number of Roe deer. I can't work out if I saw five or eight i.e. I might have seen one of the normal male and two female groups twice.
The Robins around the Moor Green Lakes feeders appeared to have called a truce in the harsh weather. Normally they would attack any Robin that came close. Today, however, I spotted at least four of them, all putting up with each other, spending their efforts on feeding and staying alive in the foul weather.
I spotted at least three Gold Finches and number small brown birds, moving too fast in the vegetation to either recognise or haul off a shot on the camera. I think many were Wrens, but one might, just might have been a Goldcrest.
I have often commented on how nervous the birds are, and tend to take off when I get too close i.e. 100 yards! Not all do so, and I am wondering if they are used to Humans by inhabiting urban waterways e.g. recreation parks, rivers and canals with many boats and walkers along the shore. Whilst the flighty birds tend to be migrants and/or eschew urban areas.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.