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|Winter is a time of wonder for any naturalist. Ian McCarthy savours this, his favourite season, and witnesses the wildlife spectacles taking place in the countryside. |
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|'Join me as I walk out to greet the coming season and witness the wonder and wealth of winter wildlife spectacles we have here in Britain.'|
Walk Out to Winter
Winter has been Ian McCarthy's favourite season for as long as he can remember. It's a time of wonder for any naturalist, a season of drama and contrasts. Long dark nights are punctuated by extraordinary dawns and sunsets, winds howl as they batter the countryside and rain pelts down but there is also the silence and beauty of falling snow.
As a wildlife cameraman, Ian has spent many hours out on freezing hillsides and knee-deep in snow in pursuit of his quarry but last winter, armed with a tape recorder and a microphone, he was able to experience the season on a different level. He was able to savour the approach of the coming season, witnessing the wildlife spectacles that take place at this time of year.
As autumn sinks into winter, it is a time of great movement and activity in the natural world as many animals prepare for the hard times ahead. Birds migrate south to find warmer weather, and they will feed feverishly on berries before they go to aid their journey. Red deer stags battle noisily and aggressively over the right to mate with hinds on Scottish hillsides. Their calves will be born when food and warmth return in the spring. Whilst many birds depart our shores, others are arriving from the Arctic. Our estuaries become packed with every breed of goose and duck imaginable fleeing the plunging temperatures further north.
Song: "My Lagan Love" by Kate Bush
Poems: "Fall, Leaves, Fall" by Emily Bronte and "Something Told the Wild Geese" by Rachel Field.
With winter slowly taking hold, it's the last chance for animals to breed and to take refuge from the colder weather. Redwing, a northern thrush, can be heard as they pass overhead en route from Scandinavia to Spain, some stopping over in the south west of Britain for the winter. In rain-swollen rushing rivers, salmon are heading upstream. Leaping weirs and fish passes, they are returning to where they were born to spawn on shallow gravel beds. With everything retreating from the grip of winter, the hen fish can lay her eggs as they will be safe from other river predators at this time of year. As the season progresses, ice and snow bring a stillness and quiet to the countryside. While birds fall silent, and insects seek shelter underground, Arctic species come into their own. High on Scottish mountains, ptarmigan moult to a pure white to blend in with their surroundings.
Song: "Winter, Fire and Snow" by Anuna
Poems: "Winter" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and "Snow" by Walter de la Mare
Portland Bird Observatory
WWT - Caerlaverock
The Wye Foundation
RSPB - Snettisham
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