Archives for January 2010

Predicting the next cold snap

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:49 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

The big freeze of January 2010 released its grip mid month with a thaw. The period January 15th to the 18th was mild in comparison with daytime temperatures as high as 8 to 11 Celsius.

But January is going to finish on a cold note with northerly winds from the Arctic this weekend bringing a mixture of sunshine, frost and wintry showers.

Most of the snow will be in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion with accumulations likely, especially on higher ground e.g. The Preseli and Cambrian Mountains.

Met Office forecast warning

Although the month is not over yet, it looks like being the coldest January in Wales since 1987 with a mean temperature of 1.0 Celsius.

The coldest ever January was in 1963 with a mean temperature of -2.5 Celsius.

The big question on many peoples lips now, though, is have we seen the worst of the cold this winter or are we in for another freeze sometime in February?

Well predicting what is going to happen more than 5 days ahead is not easy. There are no guarantees but there are signs that a forecaster can look for.

The very cold spell earlier in January was due to a combination of factors. One factor was a warming of the stratosphere above the North Pole which began in late November and December 2009.

Normally low pressure sits over the pole but when warming takes place, the low begins to weaken and change direction.

This led to an anti-cyclonic (clock-wise) circulation developing high in the atmosphere. The reversal took about 3 weeks to find its way down to the surface with high pressure forming over the pole.

Air in high pressure systems flows outwards and the cold air began to filter southwards into northern and central Europe.

The extra warmth in the stratosphere can cause a blocking high pressure to form and if it develops in the right place in winter it can mean very cold winds for Britain.

What is of concern now is that more stratospheric warming started last week. This suggests that another blocking high is likely to develop during February.

Other things to consider are the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) What is the NAO? 

And the Arctic oscillation (AO)

Both the NAO and AO are connected and affect our weather patterns. They have both gone into a negative phase recently, having temporarily turned positive around the middle of this month - and are forecast to stay negative into early February.

This suggests that the jet stream will move to the south of us once again, and high pressure is likely to build over Scandinavia and Greenland with Britain exposed to very cold air from continental Europe.

Of course, this is a forecast and things could change - but at the moment there is a strong signal for another very cold spell with an increasing risk of snow after February 6th although the finer details will obviously become clearer nearer the time.

A real winter for a change!

Derek

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:37 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

When? 30-31 Jan, 2010

A year has flown by (excuse the pun) but it's that time again when the RSPB ask the nation to keep a careful eye on their gardens over a 1 hour period and record the bird species they see in their gardens.

Why only an hour? Well it's an easy ask for starters, which means more people will take part!

It doesn't matter when you do it either, although birds are generally more active in the morning when feeding. 

Winter time has been chosen as birds tend to come into our gardens more in search of food and shelter, so you can sit inside and count from the comfort of your own home.

Come rain or shine, there will be around half a million people taking part in this weekends survey so don't panic if your particular patch is quiet.

A wren by Sue Tranter, courtesy of RSPB images:
wren_rspb.jpg

The important thing is to be accurate, so only add birds you actually see during the hour you choose, even if your regular visitors fail to turn up, don't be tempted to add them - they will have been counted somewhere.

It's also crucial to submit your form/ info even if you don't see anything, as all the data is important and helps the RSPB learn about bird populations and work out which species need their help.

Visit the RSPB website from tomorrow onwards to submit your data.

 You can download a form to record your sightings here but don't post this in - it's just to help you remember what you've seen.

To help attract more birds have a go at making bird feeders:

Things you'll need: Plastic drinks/ bottles, scissors, wire or string, bird seed, yoghurt pots or milk cartons (make sure they're clean)

  • Cut a hole in the side large enough to allow a free flow of seeds, but in such a way that it won't all fall out on the ground in the slightest puff of wind, and won't get wet if it rains.
  • Make a few small holes in the bottom of your feeder to allow any rainwater to drain away.
  • Hang it with wire, or even strong string from a tree or your washing line.
  • If your feeder starts to wear out or the food in it goes mouldy, recycle it and make another one!
Remember to keep your feeders well stocked, especially in winter too as birds come to rely on them and will go hungry if you forget.

Feeling peckish? Try making the speedy bird cake:

Things you'll need: Good quality bird seed, raisins, peanuts, grated cheese, suet or lard, yoghurt pot, string, mixing bowl, scissors.

  • Carefully make a small hole in the bottom of a yoghurt pot. Thread string through the hole and tie a knot on the inside. Leave enough string so that you can tie the pot to a tree or your bird table.
  • Allow the lard to warm up to room temperature, but don't melt it. Then cut it up into small pieces and put it in the mixing bowl.
  • Add the other ingredients to the bowl and mix them together with your finger tips. Keep adding the seed/raisin/cheese mixture and squidging it until the fat holds it all together.
  • Fill your yoghurt pots with bird cake mixture and put them in the fridge to set for an hour or so.
  • Hang your speedy bird cakes from trees or your bird table. Watch for greenfinches, tits and possibly even great spotted woodpeckers.
We've got plenty of information about garden birds on our website too.

I'll be taking part so will share my results with you on Monday!

Gull

Little egret spotted at Aberglasney

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 16:44 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Sharp-eyed bird lovers may spot an unexpected migrant visiting Aberglasney gardens this winter.

A little egret, a small heron, usually found on the Continent, was spied by gardeners as it made its way through the stream garden at Pigeon House Wood at Aberglasney.

The delicate looking white bird was once a rare visitor to the UK and is easily distinguishable with its black legs and bill and highly conspicuous yellow feet.

Moses Davies from our Flickr group took this photo in wetlands near Llanelli:

little_egret.jpg

The species first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989 and first bred in Dorset in 1996. Little Egrets bred in Wales for the first time in 2002 and have seen the largest increase in overall UK population in the past decade.

One possible explanation may be the run of noticeably mild winter in britain, extending the northern limit of the traditional range of the egret.

Aberglasney's director of operations - Graham Rankin, spotted the bird during his daily stroll through the gardens.

He said: "Aberglasney is well known for its wide variety of wildlife from tulip eating water voles, otters that eat the fish and eels from the pool and migrant birds such as the spotted flycatcher and redstart. Now we can add the Little Egret to the list".

"I first saw Little Egrets at the National Wetlands Centre at Penclacwydd, and last summer on the edge of the Laugharne Estuary but I didn't expect to see one in the gardens at Aberglasney."

Meanwhile at Manorbier beach in Pembrokshire, Joysaphine from our Flickr group spotted another little egret flying over head recently.

Aberglasney gardens website

Arctic winds and falling temperatures

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:30 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Temperatures yesterday reached 11 Celsius at Hawarden in Flintshire but it's feeling chilly again today and after some rain tonight it's going to turn colder tomorrow and over the weekend.

Arctic winds will be bringing a drop in temperature, as well as some frost and wintry showers. The air will be very cold and as it flows over the relatively warm waters of the Irish Sea, it will become very unstable forming large towering clouds and showers.

Who gets the showers is very dependant on the wind direction. On Saturday a north to north-westerly wind is expected which means west and north west Wales (Gwynedd, Conwy, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire) will catch most of the showers with a covering of snow in places, especially on higher ground e.g. Snowdonia and the Preseli Mountains.

Sunday another cold day with wintry showers a little more widespread.The snow showers will be heaviest in North West Wales and Pembrokeshire. Take a look at the latest Met Office weather warning.

Away from the showers there will be plenty of blue skies and sunshine to enjoy and the air will be very clean, so if you're out walking you'll see for miles.

Next week, temperatures look set to recover in the first few days of February bringing a little rain but beyond that it looks like high pressure over Scandinavia and Russia will take control again with colder air returning from the east towards the end of next week.

Brrrrr!

Derek

Weatherman Walking - new series

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:35 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

As you may know, the new series of Weatherman Walking starts on Wednesday, 27 January on BBC One Wales at 7.30pm.

The first programme is entitled 'Peaks and Ports' and features a walk above Barmouth and a big yomp around the famous Pen y Fan Horseshoe route in the Brecon Beacons.

It's easy to by pass Barmouth and head for the big mountains of North Wales but there is a lot more to this popular sea-side town than sand and candy floss.

A view over the Mawddachestuary:

mawddach_estuary.jpg

I really enjoyed filming here and discovering the history and hidden delights of the area which I didn't know about before, such as the Panorama walk with its wonderful views along the Mawddach Estuary and Cadair Idris.

I was hoping to find a lump of gold in one of the old mines in the hillside but no such luck, maybe next time eh? Thankfully, the weather was kind to us with some beautiful sunsets over Cardigan Bay.

One of the hardest things was filming on the railway bridge. I had to remember my words and talk to the camera as a train crossed the bridge. I practised a few times but I only had one chance to get it right given there weren't many trains. Thankfully, I didn't mess it up!

People often ask me if I do the whole walk when we film. If I am honest, sometimes we do and sometimes we don't.

Ideally we would do the whole thing but it all depends on how much time we have. Filming is limited to two days or less per walk and sometimes this is not enough to get everything done so we have to cut corners somewhere.

However, in the case of Pen y Fan we had no option but to do the whole thing. There was no helicopter or land rover and we had to carry all the equipment with us right to the top.

derek_views.jpg

It was no wonder that the cameramen were stiff by the end of the day! Mind you, it was worth it, the low cloud lifted and the views from the summit were spectacular.

The highlight for me was the steep climb up to Fan y Big and standing on the 'diving board'. I managed to stay on it long enough to have my photo taken as a memento of my visit and the views of the valley below were awesome with Brecon in the distance.

I hope you enjoy the new series and hopefully it will inspire you to do some of my walks!

You can enjoy photo galleries from every walk this year so take a look and let me know what you think and in a new feature for this year, you can download pdfs of the map for each walk, so you can follow in my footsteps!

Derek

Check out the new website for all the walking info

The bee's knees

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:48 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A project to protect bumblebees in Pembrokeshire is in the running for a UK prize to expand its work on creating habitat for the endangered species.

The shrill carder bee is only found in 6 populations across the UK and we're proud to report that 3 of those are right here in Wales!

A common carder bee by Ash Lindop on Flickr:
common_carder_bee_ash_lindo.jpg

Find out more about bees on our website or browse the video vaults for some great clips to watch.

Take a look at all of the bee photographs on our BBC Wales Nature Flickr page.

Related links:

Bumblebee Conservation Trust website



St Dwynwen's Day weather forecast

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 11:50 UK time, Monday, 25 January 2010

Today is St. Dwynwen's Day which is the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine's day.

Read the rest of this entry

Weekend weather outlook for Jan 23-24

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:01 UK time, Friday, 22 January 2010

The weather has certainly kept me on my toes over the past couple of weeks with heavy rain, snow, freezing temperatures and strong winds to deal with.

Thankfully, it's a lot calmer now with a quiet, spell of weather this weekend, for a change.

In the last 24 hours, over 25mm (over an inch) fell at Lake Vyrnwy in Powys and at Capel Curig in Conwy. The best of the sunshine today has been in Pembrokeshire with temperatures rising to a mild 10°C on the coast, 50°F.

Tonight most of Wales will be dry. Some clear skies but with low cloud, mist and fog patches forming. A slight frost is possible in places too.

Most likely in parts of Powys and south-east Wales where temperatures could fall as low as -2 Celsius.

Tomorrow mixed fortunes across the Nation. Some places will stay dull and grey with mist and fog patches slow to lift.

A little drizzle is possible e.g. in Deeside otherwise dry and few favoured places will brighten up with a little sunshine.

The best of the sunshine might be on top of the Brecon Beacons. Top temperatures around average, 6 or 7°C , 44°F with a light northerly breeze.

If you fancy a walk, my new Weatherman Walking series begins next week and we've just launched a new walking site featuring all of the new walks, so you might gain some inspiration from there.

Tomorrow, St. Mary's Church Hall in Johnstown, near Wrexham are holding a soup lunch to raise funds for the Haiti disaster between 12 noon - 2pm. If you're going along it will be dry and there may even be a little sunshine.
 
Sunday a few spots of light rain are possible in parts of North Wales but most of the country dry. Some cloud, mist and fog patches again but if you're lucky you'll see the sun. Winds remaining light with highs around 5 or 6°C.

Next week the signs are its going to turn colder. Temperatures dropping a few degrees with some frost.

Cascaid Community Church in Penpedairheol are holding a fundraising day for Haiti next Monday between 10am and 4pm. Everyone is welcome and it should be dry.

Have a nice weekend

Derek 

Free land surveys for south west farmers

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:53 UK time, Friday, 22 January 2010

RSPB Cymru is giving farmers in South West Wales the chance to have their land surveyed by trained volunteers.

The free Volunteer & Farmer Alliance (V&FA) surveys provide farmers with information about the birds on their land, and enable them to make the most of their farms for local wildlife.

One of the farms surveyed in 2003 was Fferm Tresinwen in Pen Caer, Pembrokeshire, where 45 different bird species were identified, including, bullfinches, starlings and skylark - three farmland species that have suffered losses in Wales during recent years.

The 155 acre farm owned by Mr Lewis was surveyed by RSPB volunteer, Stephen Berry.

Mr Lewis said: "The information provided by the RSPB was very interesting. I knew the farm had lots of birds, but now I know exactly where they are and how I can take the appropriate action to continue to keep them."

RSPB Cymru has carried out V&FA surveys for the past eight years. The surveys are done during April, May, and June by volunteers when the birds are breeding, with confidential maps being produced for farmers by November.
 
The surveys take place during the morning - when the birds are most active and the volunteers will cover an area of approximately 80 hectares. However if a farm is smaller than 80 hectares it could still be suitable and eligible for a survey.

Lapwings by Jodie Randall, rspb-images.com:
lapwings_rspb.jpg
They provide useful information for the landholder, and for RSPB Cymru. The maps show breeding populations for birds of conservation concern, which can be used to identify areas where more work is needed to help these species.

These include: Lapwings, yellowhammers, tree sparrows and curlews, which have all seen marked declines in recent years, and are of the highest conservation priority in Wales.

Work is already being done around Wales to benefit some of the birds seeing the most decline and collecting more data for these and other species will help further.

Around 290 farms have been surveyed in Wales as part of the V&FA scheme during the last eight years.

Whether you are a farmer interested in having a bird survey done or a volunteer wanting to help please call Mark Vercoe on 01248 672864 or email mark.vercoe@rspb.org.uk.

The surveys are completely free and confidential, for more information about the scheme please visit www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/farming 

A wintry flavour to the weather today

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:55 UK time, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

There's a wintry flavour to the weather across Wales today with a front bringing a mixture of rain, sleet and snow to many areas. The snow settling in some places too. 

Read the rest of this entry

Pull the otter one

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 16:12 UK time, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Did you know that an otter can roam for up to 40 km each night?

It can make tracking them quite a challenge, but fortunately for us they leave a tell tale smell...in the form of spraints.

If you live in NE Wales, there's an otter awareness course happening tomorrow near Wrexham between 10am and 2pm.

Gull

Milder air but snow is still possible

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:50 UK time, Monday, 18 January 2010

It may have warmed-up recently but we're not completely out of the woods yet as far as snow is concerned.

More rain is on the way this week but Wednesday is a bit more tricky with a mixture of rain and snow expected. Deciding on who gets the snow and how much is the difficult bit.

I don't think everywhere will get snow, and I'm not expecting as much as last week but it's worth keeping an eye on the forecast

So the battle lines between the cold and warm air are being drawn again.

At the moment, we have warm air over us but the cold air isn't too far away over northern Europe and Scandinavia and it's going to move westwards flowing into Britain by the middle of this week.

At the same time, a front will move in from the Atlantic on Wednesday and as it bumps up against the cold air it brings the risk of some snow.

You often here forecasters (including me) talking of rain turning to snow but technically this is wrong. Rain never turns to snow but snow often turns to rain.

In fact much of the rain that falls in Britain starts off as snow, even in the summer, because the temperature at cloud-level is often below freezing.

As the snow falls through the air beneath the cloud the temperature rises, so the snowflakes begin to melt and turn to raindrops.

When we think of rain turning to snow it is because the air under the cloud is getting colder for one reason or another.

So instead of the snow turning to rain as it falls, it remains as snow all the way down from cloud to ground. This can happen in three ways:

1. By colder air flowing in from elsewhere lowering the temperature
2. By raindrops evaporating. This causes cooling as they change from liquid to vapour
3. By snow melting. This causes cooling as the snowflakes change from solid to liquid

So on a winter's day if may be raining with a temperature of 6 Celsius but if the precipitation is heavy and prolonged enough with light winds this can lower the freezing level with more and more snow flakes appearing as the temperature drops.

This will be the case tomorrow with some colder air being imported into Wales helping the process along.

Based on the latest information, it looks like most of the snow on Wednesday will fall in Mid, South and East Wales. Mainly on the higher ground but some low ground could also see a little snow.

As far as amounts are concerned, the latest ideas are 2 to 5 cm in places, 1 to 2 inches. 10cm on high ground above about 200 metres or 650 feet which includes the South Wales Valleys.

Mostly rain on the coast. The rain and snow easing and dying out on Wednesday afternoon.

Beyond that, the cold snap looks like being short-lived. Milder air will take control again later on Thursday with a spell of heavy rain rain and strong winds bringing a risk of localised flooding.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if the cold air has another swipe at us next week and in February with further snowfalls.

We may have see the worst of the white stuff for now but I have a feeling that this winter could be one many of us remember for many years to come...

Derek

Long exposure

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:28 UK time, Monday, 18 January 2010

I hope you all enjoyed the mild weather over the weekend. I noticed my neighbours snowman is finally on it's last legs so it must be warming up. Derek will be here shortly with the latest weather update...

I popped down to Rest Bay, Porthcawl for a surf on Saturday afternoon and was pleased to report that the sea felt much warmer without the minus air temperatures!

The surf was good too, with nice clean 3-5ft waves and virtually no wind. The beach was busy too with every man and his dog down there as well as a few power kiters and fishermen. It almost felt like spring was in the air...

For the non surfers out there - 'clean' refers to the wave shape rather than the cleanliness of the ocean. 'Clean' waves occur when the swell, wave direction, wave period and wind direction are all just right to provide nice peeling waves (which hold up long enough) for us to surf along.

Our Flickr group has been busy as usual and Kev Lewis has been honing his skills shooting long exposure shots at night of star trails on Anglesey.

This is looking West from Llanbadrig Church towards Wylfa, on the left is Cemaes Bay:
star_trail.jpg

Llanbadrig church:
star_trail1.jpg

Andrew Page has opted for some stunning day time shots and snapped this lovely image of a waterfall in the Brecon Beacons:
3pillars.jpg

Gull

Wind and rain on the way

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:46 UK time, Friday, 15 January 2010

I've heard some people complaining about the snow and ice, well give it a few days and they'll be fed about the wind and rain!

Over the weekend, the thaw is set to continue but given the ground is cold there is still a risk of ice in places. Some flooding is likely too with heavy rain, and in the mountains there is a continuing risk of avalanche.

This morning we all saw some rain plus a brief spell of sleet and snow in Mid and North East Wales. This has now moved away leaving a drier afternoon.

Mostly cloudy with a few spots of light rain and drizzle, mist and hill fog but a few places may brighten-up. Top temperatures 6 to 10 Celsius, the highest since Christmas, with a southerly wind.

Later this evening and overnight rain will spread across Wales. A little snow for a time on the high ground. Some heavy rain is expected. Typically 15 to 25mm, 40 mm on high ground with some flooding likely.

Becoming windy too with a strong to gale force south to south-easterly wind. Forecast winds gusts 50 to 60mph in exposed places.

Lowest temperatures 3 or 4 Celsius in Central, East and North East Wales. 5 to 7 Celsius in the South and West.

By tomorrow morning the heaviest of the rain will have moved through leaving behind plenty of cloud, some patchy rain or showers. Some dry weather too and on the North Wales coast it may even brighten-up at least for a time.

The wind easing with top temperatures around 4 Celsius in the North East. 7 to 10 Celsius elsewhere.

Tomorrow evening rain will move away leaving a dry night. The cloud clearing and turning chilly inland.

Lowest temperatures in Central, East and North East Wales close to freezing with a slight frost and a risk of ice.

Sunday the best day of the weekend. The odd shower but on the whole dry with some sunshine. Top temperatures 7 to 9 Celsius with a light to moderate south westerly wind, fresh on some coasts.

At the moment Monday looks dry. Tuesday chilly with freshening south easterly winds with a chance of rain during the afternoon and this may start off as snow on the highest ground.

The rest of the week should turn milder with spells of rain and strong winds at times. The cold weather keeping away from Wales.. for a while at least!

Derek

Once bittern, twice shy

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:34 UK time, Thursday, 14 January 2010

I thought I'd write a quick blog about bitterns seeing as we've had three great photos of these amazing birds in the space of a few days.

This one came into our Flickr group from Ken Bray who saw this bird taking off from a canal in Glamorgan.
bittern_kenbray54.jpg

Bitterns are some of the rarest birds in the UK but do seem to be making a comeback. Just 12 yrs ago they were on the verge of extinction but numbers are steadily rising and more birds are now being spotted in England and Wales.

The rely heavily on habitat and prefer shallow wetlands with plenty of well managed reed beds with varying water levels.

A recent bittern on the ice at Hendre Lake in Cardiff by Moses Davies:
bittern.jpg

Bitterns are a type of heron - short and stocky with a distinctive browny/ orange plumage made up stripes and bars which help make them almost impossible to spot in the dense reed beds where they live and nest.

They are incredibly secretive and will often stand motionless with their necks and beaks pointing straight up at the sky, in order to blend in even better with the upright reeds surrounding them.

Another great shot from Moses Davies which shows just how well these birds can hide:
bittern_moses.jpg

Their short, sharp beaks are a lethal weapon for hunting small fish, mammals, frogs, eels etc.

From February onwards the males begin making their distinctive 'booming' call to attract a mate and you'll often here bitterns in wetland areas without ever actually seeing them.

The sound can carry for quite some distance too. You can listen to a bittern 'booming' on the RSPB website.

Winter is a good time to see them as the reed beds thin out and they'll often venture out more into the open in search of food and water during harsh winter weather.

At Leighton Moss Reserve in England they are so worried about bitterns starving to death that the RSPB wardens have resorted to putting small fish out onto the ice to help feed the birds.

If you've seen a bittern recently then tell us where in the comments section of this blog or send in your pics to me here at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk.

Gull

A dry night with some fog and ice

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:30 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Most of Wales woke up to a blanket of snow this morning. The snow thick in places with drifts, especially in more rural areas.  

Amounts of recent snow :

Typically 5 to 10cm (2 to 4 inches) on lower ground.

15 to 20cm (6 to 8 inches) on higher ground.

5cm in the centre of Cardiff   about 2 inches
 
10cm in Llandrindod. 4 inches

18cm at Tirabad near Sennybridge.  8 inches at 6am.

5 to 8cm in Wrexham  2 to 3 inches

There's a little more snow to come in mid and north Wales this afternoon. Most it light but a few heavier bursts, especially in the north east and on the high ground, e.g. Denbighshire moors and Halkyn Mountain.

Further south and west turning much drier with the shower and some mist. The wind lighter than yesterday from the east or south east with highest temperatures typically 0 to 2 Celsius. Less cold in Pembrokeshire, with 6 Celsius in Milford Haven nearer the sea.

This evening snow in the north east will move away. Elsewhere a largely dry night. Some mist, low cloud and fog patches. Temperatures on the coast just above freezing but inland down to 0 to -2 Celsius with a risk of ice.

Tomorrow morning ice and fog the main problems. Some poor visibility. A few spots of light rain in north Wales for a time. Otherwise generally dry.

Grey and misty although the sun may break through in places. e.g. towards the North Wales coast.

Winds light from the east or south east. Cold for most of Wales. Highs 1 to 4 Celsius but milder in Pembrokeshire with a high of 7 on the coast.

Tomorrow night more mist, patchy fog. Frost and ice (mainly central and east Wales) but the breeze picking-up after midnight will bring a little rain by Friday morning.

Friday afternoon much drier. Less cold if not milder with a moderate to fresh southerly breeze. Highs of 4 in Wrexham and Brecon. 6 in Cardiff. 8 in Bangor. 9 in Pembroke Dock.

Saturday milder with a spell of wet and windy weather. Some heavy rain with a risk of flooding and a thaw of lying snow. Strong to gale force S-SE winds. Turning clearer and calmer during the evening. Highs 6 to 10 Celsius.

Sunday breezy with some sunshine and a few showers. Highs 6 to 8 Celsius with south-westerly breeze.

Even though temperatures will rise over the weekend there is still a risk of icy patches, especially away from the coast, given the ground is so cold and with melting snow/slush.

There is also an avalanche risk in Snowdonia!

Next week, there's currently a suggestion that a block of high pressure over Russia will push westwards bringing a return to colder weather and lower temperatures across Britain...

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Derek 

Birds on ice

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:39 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A selection of photos featuring some of the more unusual bird species sent in to our Flickr group during the recent cold snap.

I have to say I'm a little bit jealous of this one. I've never ever seen a 'live' bittern. I can remember finding a dead one in Pembrokeshire near a local reed bed when I was about 10yrs old and I've heard a few in the distance but that's as close as I've ever got.

Looking at the bittern's remarkable camouflage though, it's no surprise that these birds remain hidden from view for most of their lives. The snow and ice are definitely making it easier to get closer to wildlife.

Bittern on the ice by Moses Davies:
bittern.jpg

This red kite was spotted soaring over the snowy hills at Nant yr Arian by Alan Cole:
red_kite_snow.jpg

Meanwhile Jeff Cohen spotted a rare goldcrest in the Greenfield Valley:
goldcrest.jpg


A pied wagtail by Ef-stop bobbing its way along the ice:
pied_wagtail.jpg

A wren getting some much needed water at a local reed bed by Graham Billington:
wren.jpg


Gull

Winter wonderland

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:01 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I hope you all got home safely last night. Getting out of Cardiff wasn't easy with long queues and slippery roads between Llandaff and Groes Faen before getting onto the M4 where the lanes became invisible to the eye. A thirty minute journey turned into one and a half hours...

Porthcawl had a good 3" of snow on the tops of the cars this morning and the redwing were hungrily attacking the bird feeder in my front garden.

Don't forget to put out some water for the birds as well as any food scraps but try to place food underneath hedges and trees etc rather than out in the open.

Daisy Evans from Blackwood has sent in a pic of her pet rabbit 'Lola' along with a larger snowier version:
snow_rabbit.jpg

This morning, Jamie and Louise on Radio Wales were discussing what affect the recent snow has had on Welsh wildlife, so if you missed it, listen in again via the BBC i-player later.

Yesterday I asked if anyone had spotted any bullfinch recently. As if by magic, our Flickr group responded and Eiona Roberts in Swansea sent in this one of a rather portly looking male on a feeder. Eiona said she'd not seen one in her garden for around 20 years:
bullfinch.jpg

The BBC Local websites have had some lovely photos sent in too. Take a look through their galleries:

South East snow pics

South West snow pics

North East snow pics

Mid Wales snow pics

Milder weather is on the way so we'll be back to rain before long although there is a bit more snow forecast for North Wales. Derek has a weather update coming shortly.

Gull

Heavy snow for Powys and South Wales tonight

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:19 UK time, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Met Office has issued a warning of heavy snow for Powys and South Wales.

Strong winds will cause drifting with blizzards, especially on hills and mountains. So disruption and more school closures are highly likely.

Based on the latest information, it looks like Mid, South and East Wales will be worst hit.

Forecast snow amounts are 2 to 5cm on low ground away from the coast. 1 to 2 inches. 5 to 10 cm further inland, 2 to 4 inches and as much as 15 to 20 cm, 6 to 8" on Heads of the Valleys, Brecon Beacons with bigger drifts.

There is also a risk of ice building up on power lines. North East Wales can expect some significant snow too.

So this evening and overnight snow will become more widespread spreading into Mid and North Wales. Some moderate to heavy falls, especially on the high ground including Denbighshire Moors.

Some coasts may get away with next to nothing. Lowest temperatures 0 to -2 Celsius with a strong south-easterly wind making it feel bitterly cold.

Tomorrow morning will bring more snowfall to many areas of Wales away from the Pembrokeshire coast.

The snow easing most places becoming dry during the afternoon. It may even brighten up in the south west.

Winds lighter than today but still cold. Highs of 1 in Wrexham and Cardiff. 2 in Aberystwyth. 6 in Milford Haven.

Tomorrow night much drier with mist, fog and low cloud forming. And a risk of ice given the ground is so cold. Dropping close to freezing or below.

After tomorrow, I think we've seen the worst of the snow for a while. Thursday mainly dry with areas of low cloud, mist and fog patches. Some sunshine in places. Still cold with light winds. Milder in Pembrokeshire.

Friday and the weekend turning less cold if not milder. Temperatures rising to nearer average with some wind and rain rolling in from the Atlantic.

Before that, though, it looks like most of Wales can expect more snow in the next 24 hours. Some moderate to heavy falls.especially on the high ground with drifting in strong winds. 

You can keep up to date with the latest travel information and school closures on Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and on BBC Wales.

Derek 

Snow forecast for the next 24 hrs

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:40 UK time, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Having analysed the latest information and charts, I reckon most of Wales can expect fresh snowfall in the next 24 hours although some windward coasts, especially in the south west, may escape with next to nothing.

Snow amounts will vary across the country. At the moment, it looks like South, Mid and East Wales will be worst hit, especially the high ground with drifting and blizzards on the hills and mountains.

Predicted snow amounts (subject to change), typically 5 to 10cm, 2 to 4 inches. 15 to 20 cm, 4 to 8 inches in the South Wales Valleys. 25cm, 10 inches on the Brecon Beacons and Black mountains with bigger drifts.

Cardiff and Newport could have a few inches of snow as well.

N.B. Strong to gale force south easterly winds are already causing problems with drifting of old snow on the ground.

Take a look at the latest radar picture from the Met Office.

Rain now into Pembrokeshire will spread slowly across west and south Wales this afternoon. Rain is likely on the coast west of Gower with a wind off the sea but inland it will fall as snow. Top temperatures close to freezing or just above.

Up to 4 in Milford Haven. A strong to gale force south easterly wind will make it feel bitterly cold. Gusts 50 to 60 mph on exposed coasts and hills.

This evening and tonight, the snow will spread further north into mid and north Wales. Some moderate falls of snow are likely, especially on the high ground. e.g. the hills of Powys and the Denbighshire moors with drifting. Lowest temperatures 0 to minus 2 Celsius.

Tomorrow morning will bring more snowfall to many areas of Wales away from the Pembrokeshire coast.

The snow will continue into the afternoon but gradually turn lighter. Southern counties and south west Wales turning drier with the odd rain shower in Pembrokeshire.

Winds lighter than today but still cold. Highs of 1 Celsius in Wrexham and Cardiff, 2 in Aberystwyth and 6 in Tenby.

Tomorrow night much drier with mist, fog and low cloud forming. And a risk of ice. Thursday mainly dry with areas of low cloud, mist and fog patches. Some sunshine in places. Still rather cold with light winds.

So in summary - it looks like most of Wales can expect more snow in the next 24 hours. Heaviest in south, mid and east Wales, especially on the high ground with drifting in the strong winds.

Derek

There's snow business like snow business...

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:50 UK time, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Wales Nature inbox has been overflowing lately so thanks very much for all your amazing photos of the recent snow and ice!

Apologies if they don't all get shown but don't worry - I do pass on the best ones to Derek for his TV weather backgrounds.

Here are a few recent pics I've chosen which cover a wide range of topics - from snowmen to wildlife and lovely crisp landscapes.

Here we have our first 'snow teddy' - I had no idea they actually existed until Michael Sherlock sent in this one in which he saw lurking outside the Drovers Arms in Rhewl near Denbigh: 

snow_teddy.jpg

You know it's cold when the snow meets the sea. This lovely shot of an icy shoreline at Llangennith beach, Gower comes from Phillippa Davies:

llangennith_ice.jpg

Pat Weaver sent in this shot of ice floating in the River Severn at Garthmyl, Montgomeryshire:

ice_severn.jpg

It's been nice to see lapwings out and about in the fields and I've been fortunate enough to see a flock regularly appearing in the school playing fields near my house. Keep your eyes peeled. 

Keith Jones has been busy photographing wildlife including herons, bullfinches and lapwings. He snapped this lapwing at Southerndown beach in the Vale of Glamorgan:

lapwing.jpg

And finally my award for 'best robin composition shot' goes to Morten Hanasand who sent this in to our Flickr group:

robin_square.jpg

That's it for now. Keep the wildlife photos coming in. 

I'm particularly keen to see more bullfinches...they must be out there somewhere and being bright pink (males), must be finding it fairly difficult to hide!

Gull 

A history of winters past

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 11:28 UK time, Monday, 11 January 2010

We're used to short cold snaps lasting a few days but this one is much longer and the worst to hit Wales for ages. So how does it compare with previous winters?

Read the rest of this entry

Warmer nights, colder winds and frozen pipes.

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:10 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

We've had some exceptionally cold nights recently. Last night another record was broken in Wales with -15°C, (5°F) recorded at the Met Office automatic weather station at Tirabad near Sennybridge in the Brecon Beacons which is very remote, 307 metres or 1007 feet above sea level.

The previous record here was -14°C on 20 December 1999. This is an official temperature reading using a Stevenson Screen.

A few of you have recorded even lower temperatures, such as Richard Manning from Llanwrda in Carmarthenshire who recorded -16.8°C.

Neville Danby recorded -14.9°C in Talybont on Usk. His garden is in the bottom of the valley which is in a frost pocket collecting all the cold, dense air as it drains off the hills.

Helen of Bylchau in Conwy measured -16.9°C on her thermometer

In Caersws, Powys. Howard Wright saw the mercury sink to -18°C

While Rosemary Wilson from Crossgates near Llandrindod has recorded - 20°C. She also has no water because her well is frozen - I'm not surprised!

The coldest nights happen when there is little wind, clear skies and a covering of snow on the ground.

Since snow is a poor conductor of heat, especially when freshly fallen and dry, temperatures fall sharply.

In Wales, the lowest temperatures tend to occur in mid and east Wales furthest away from the warming influence of the sea.

The lowest temperatures ever recorded is an amazing -23.3°C (-10°F) at Rhayader in Radnorshire on 21 January 1940.

In England, the record minimum temperature is -26.1°C (-15 °F) at Newport in Shropshire on 10 January 1982.

In bonnie Scotland the lowest temperature ever recorded was -27.2°C (-17 °F) at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains on January 10, at Altnaharra, Sutherland on 30 December 1995.

Vostok in Antarctica holds the world's record for the coldest temperature: -89.4 °C (-128°F) on 21 July 1983.

Some coastal areas of Wales have escaped the worst of the cold recently. Last night the lowest temperature at Mumbles Head coastguard station was a 'tropical' -2°C. This is because the sea acts like a storage heater and keeps things a little warmer.

Over the coming few days temperatures won't fall so at low night because more cloud is expected and the wind is going to pick-up as well but the stronger wind means a significant wind-chill.

In the wind it will feel more like -5 to -10°C over the weekend. It's the sort of wind that goes right through you, instead of around you!

Temperatures may not be quite so low at night but a stronger wind means the frost will be more penetrating and so there is a greater risk of freezing pipes.

You may have noticed recently that you are getting lots of mini-electric shocks when touching things. This is because the air at the moment is very dry and the humidity is low which means more static electricity in the air.

The low humidity also means dry skin and chapped lips.

The odd snow flurry has been reported today and there is more snow on the way on Sunday, mainly in Mid and South Wales. Most of it light but it will be fairly persistent and slowly build-up.

Typically 2 to 5cm of fresh snow are expected, 1 to 2 inches, possibly more, especially on the high ground in the south and east. And the snow, which will be dry and powdery, will blow around in the wind with bigger drifts.

Longer term it looks like the big freeze will continue next week and there's a bit more snow to come too.

Have a good weekend despite the icy conditions and watch out for those biting winds from Russia!

Derek 

Spare a thought for the birds

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:12 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

The current spate of cold weather is causing havoc for us humans but spare a thought for the wildlife out there and in particular - the birds.

The ground is too hard for birds to forage for seeds and berries as normal and many water birds may be forced to leave lakes and ponds as they freeze over.

The RSPB offers this advice for helping birds out during the harshest weather:

  • Put out hanging feeders for black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts.
  • Ensure a supply of fresh water every day. If it is very cold use tepid water but do not use any anti-freeze products.
  • Put out fruit, such as apples and pears, for blackbirds, song thrushes and other members of the thrush family.
  • Food bars or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees is a great help for treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species.
  • Put up nest boxes to provide roost sites for the smaller birds. They will then be used for breeding later in the year.

Image by Sue Tranter (RSPB images):
balckbird_rspb.jpg
You might also see a change in bird behaviour as birds become more sociable - huddling up at night to conserve heat, feeding more hastily in the mornings as they replenish lost energy and flocking together to improve their chances of finding food.

Don't forget - you can also throw out old food scraps - fruit, cereals, cooked rice and pasta, cheese, unsalted bacon etc and drinking water is also crucial.

Find out more at the RSPB website.

Garden birds in winter - watch video clips.

Gull

More freezing temperatures

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:40 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

We've all woken up today to the news of more freezing temperatures overnight across Wales.

Sennybridge, Brecon dipped to -15C apparently and much of Wales will struggle to get above freezing today.

Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands had the coldest recorded temperature last night with -22.3C. To keep things in perspective - that's a summer temperature for Antarctica!

Icy NE winds from Russia are forecast too, so it's not going to improve any time soon.

Shirley Parker-Munn has sent in this photo of her 'frogometer' reading -18C from yesterday in Mid Wales!

She points out that this was by her house so it was probably much colder out in the fields.

forg_thermometer.jpg

So how is the ice and snow affecting you and whereabouts in Wales are you?

I'd love to hear from you - leave a comment in the blog.

Ice warnings on BBC News

Watch the latest BBC weather forecast


Gull

Igloo in Llandinam

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 16:35 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

I've been inundated with snow pictures over the last few days - beautiful landscapes from all over Wales and once this snow melts, I'll go through them all and place the best ones into our world famous 'snow gallery'.

This picture came in from a local eskimo who goes by the name of Rhys Mullan...

Rhys, Nathan and Eleri from Llandinam, Mid Wales spent most of the day building this igloo which includes a fireplace, chimney and garden statue:

igloo.jpg

Well done guys! I salute you for your efforts. You have far too much time on your hands ;)

I like to try and make this blog educational whenever possible so here are my top 5 igloo facts:

  • The word igloo comes from the Inuit word for 'house'.
  • Igloos were originally built as temporary hunting lodges.
  • Skilled eskimos can build an igloo in an hour.
  • A full grown man can stand in an igloo without collapsing it.
  • A properly built igloo can withstand hurricane force winds on the open snow.
I managed to make a snow penguin last year but most people thought it was a sparrow so I've officially retired from the snow sculpting scene.

Other news...Rosemary Wilson, from Abercamlo Farm, near Llandrindod Wells called to say that the temperature where she lives fell to just below -20 this morning. She has had no water as their well is completely frozen!

If you've got a quirky snow photo or fact, then send it to me here at wales.nature@bbc.co.uk and I'll feature it in the blog. Try and think outside the box.

Take care out there

Gull

Latest weather news for Wales

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:53 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Last night was the coldest night of the winter so far for some of us. Temperatures at Trawscoed plunged to minus 14 Celsius, at Tirabad near Sennybridge minus 13 Celsius, minus 10 in Hawarden and Monmouth and minus six at Cardiff Airport.

Read the rest of this entry

The joys of being a weatherman

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 10:05 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

When I was a boy growing up in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, I used to relish the occasions when it snowed. The thicker the snow the better and the winters of 1978/79 and 1981/82 remain firmly lodged in my memory, with some of the biggest blizzards of the 20th century.

Read the rest of this entry

Latest weather news for Wales

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:40 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Powys, south and east Wales worst hit by heavy snow last night and this morning. Typically 2 to 3 inches in Cardiff. 4 to 6 inches in others areas.

12 inches in the Brecon Beacons. While in Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog I've had a report of 40cm of lying snow (16 inches) with bigger drifts on the hills.

The low pressure that brought the snow is slowly moving away into France, so I think Wales has seen the worst of the snow for the time being.

This pic came in from Lindsey in Cwmbran of her daughter with a snowman: 103_2558.jpg

A few snow showers in Mid and South Wales this afternoon. Brighter skies spreading from the north. Top temperatures around 3 Celsius. Remaining below freezing on high ground with a biting north-easterly wind.

Tonight most of Wales fine with clear skies. Ice will be a big hazard. Lowest temperatures -10 Celsius in rural spots possibly lower. A few snow showers in north and west Wales later in the night with the wind easing.

Tomorrow another icy start. Wintry showers are expected in north west Wales and in the south west, especially in Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

2 to 5cm locally,10cm (2 to 4 inches) of fresh snow likely e.g.the Preseli mountains.

The rest of Wales fine with bright skies and sunshine. Very cold but with lighter winds.

The rest of the week remains very cold. Plenty of sunshine. Hard frosts and ice. The wind picking-up over the weekend making it feel bitterly cold.

And there is a moderate risk of more snow on Sunday.

Read the latest weather warnings

Longer term, the cold spell looks likely to continue for at least another 10 days!

But of course we've had it much worse in the past. Some of you will remember the snow of January 8-10, 1982 when one of the worst snowstorms in 100 years occurred in South Wales.

Depths in excess of 30 cm (1 foot) were common place, with severe drifting in the strong to gale force easterly winds resulting in power lines being brought down and some roofs collapsing due to the weight of snow.

Derek

Severe weather warnings: More snow to come

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:46 UK time, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

There's a very wintry look to the weather across Wales today with Met Office severe warnings in force for heavy snow and ice and there's more heavy snow to come.

We've probably had the worst of the snow for South Wales for time being and most of it will fall in the North and West this afternoon.

The current spell of cold weather started in mid December and has been the most prolonged spell of freezing conditions across the UK since December 1981.

Looking ahead to tonight - an area of low pressure will form over Southern England which will generate more heavy snow.

Central and Southern England look likely to be worst hit but South East Wales could also be affected by heavy snow.

The areas most likely to be affected are:

Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Newport, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Torfaen

Forecasts amount to 5 to 10cm quite widely and as much as 10 to 15cm in places (4 to 6 inches), especially in Newport and Monmouthshire.

This could cause widespread disruption to transport and could affect power supplies.

If you have to travel, take extra care and allow more time for your journey.

Take some warm clothes in your car, a hot drink and just in case - a shovel!

Derek 

Latest weather warnings

View our snow gallery so far

More snow and ice on the way

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:54 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year to you!

2010 has certainly got off to a very cold start. Last night temperatures at Tirabad near Sennybridge in the Brecon Beacons plunged to -12 Celsius and there's no sign of things warming up.

Winter is going to tighten its grip this week with Arctic winds bringing more snow and ice. Northern and Eastern parts of Britain will bear the brunt of the heaviest snow but some snow is likely in Wales too.

Amounts of snow will vary from place to place but parts of North and West Wales could see several cm's - perhaps as much as 10 cm or 4 inches on some high ground such as the Horse Shoe Pass.

It will remain bitterly cold with temperatures struggling to rise much above freezing during the day and dropping well below freezing at night with hard frosts.

There will also be a significant wind chill with a biting North to North Easterly wind developing.
The signs are that the cold weather may continue until at least the middle of January so keep the winter woollies handy.

Take care if you are travelling and don't to be tempted to walk on any frozen ponds, lakes, reservoirs or canals.

Derek 

Happy New Year

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:04 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

I hope you all had a nice break and have returned to work fresh faced and well rested! ;)

I've been over in East Germany for Xmas, where it was fairly mild, dipping to around -4 in the day time.

The usual -20 winter temperatures didn't arrive and I think it was probably colder here in Wales for much of the time, although we did have quite a bit of snow with around 30 cm of fresh powder sitting on top of the hedgerows when I left on Saturday.

Not much wildlife to report I'm afraid. I only saw a few sparrows (sperlinge), the odd blackbird (amsel), a solitary heron, cormorant and a herd of deer feeding in a snow white field.

Another cold snap on the way for us, according to Derek so you might find you get a bit snow over the next few days and temperatures are set to fall rapidly with these clear skies.

Don't forget to give the birds a helping hand. I'm currently feeding a fairly tame young blackbird. She comes to within a few feet of me. I'm not sure if this is down to stupidity or hunger?

Feeding garden birds

Feeding animals in winter

Gull

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