February.

In early February, the ‘Beast from the Baltic’ roared in and we had a lot of snow and cold temperatures, so much so, that the snow lay on the ground for 7 days. After the rain washed the snow away, it felt like Spring was finally here. That dismal, grey cloud that just seems to hang around this time of year was suddenly replaced by bright, sunny days and warmer temperatures.

Nature is emerging. In gardens, there are daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and primroses. Carpets of snowdrops have appeared in woodland and next to the roadside. Buttercup yellow celandines are growing, as are little green shoots of cow parsley on the verge of the roads.

Daffodils – taken with a zoom lens
A bird of prey
Catkins dancing in the wind – almost translucent, when lit by the sun.
Winter wheat beginning to grow in fields.
A robin enjoying the sunshine.

Early signs of Spring

There is still time for a blast of Arctic air and for the landscape to disappear under a layer of snow and ice, but the days are gradually pulling out and there are early signs of Spring. Already, I have spotted carpets of snowdrops and clumps of primroses. Catkins are in abundance and the daffodils are not far off flowering.

When the cold winds subside and the sun appears in the sky, the birds come out from their hiding places and sing.

It won’t be long until the leaves start to unfurl from the buds on the branches.

January.

We are in the depths of Winter.

Traditionally, January is the coldest month in the Northern hemisphere.

Sometimes it feels a little dark and gloomy, but you have to look for the light.

We have certainly had a wide range of weather. Days of lingering mist

Frosty mornings where the sun catches individual ice crystals, creating mini rainbows, as the light moves through the air and water.

Plants shimmer and cobwebs are like fine strands of tinsel draped across them. Swirls of beautiful, embossed leaf patterns appear overnight on top of cars and on windows, painted stealthily by Jack Frost.

Frosty mornings can give rise to bright sunrises …

And crisp, sunny days.

The promise of new life.

Then it vanishes again into bleakness and cold.

The unusual spectacle of ‘hoar frost,’ formed when water vapour in the air comes into contact with solid surfaces already below freezing, producing unique ice crystals.

It’s a miracle how these little birds survive.

Then a sprinkling of snow …

Disappears as quickly as it arrived.

Not before a glimpse into a hidden world of beauty. Snowflakes with unusual names like ‘fern-like stellar dendrites.’

And ‘hexagonal plates.’

‘Column’ and ‘needle’ crystals, ‘capped columns’ and more hexagonal plates in a big, jumbled heap.

Finally they melt and it begins to rain. Again.

Happy New Year

At this time of year, plants and flowers are a bit thin on the ground. So, I have abandoned my trusty macro lens and have been experimenting with my zoom lens.

Like many in the UK, I have been doing a lot of walking in lockdown. I have discovered a wealth of wildlife, some of which I have never seen (or perhaps not noticed) before.

From the trees and hedgerows, I have notice little rustlings and tweets. As the trees are bare, some wildlife has been a lot easier to spot. Here are a few birds I have spied recently. I hope you enjoy them.

The ever faithful Robin.
A grey wagtail.
A Sparrowhawk
A curious blackbird.
A Mistle thrush

Petrified

The petrified oaks of Mundon on the Dengie Peninsular are not actually fossilised, but are dead. They are thought to have died as a result of salt water breaching the water table.

The oaks exist in strange shapes, some almost look half human. Can you see an eye and nose and beard?

Some look like they are twisted and screaming. They have been linked to witches ….

Indeed, the puritanical Witchfinder-General, Matthew Hopkins resided in Essex. He sought out those practising ‘the dark arts.’ Nineteen were convicted and hung. Four died in prison.

Others think the oaks may have once been part of an ancient woodland. These oaks began life around 1100 when Henry I was crowned King of England.

They are certainly intriguing.

Probably best viewed on a day shrouded in fog from the North Sea.

High Summer

Another heatwave and 6 days of high temperatures and an opportunity to capture an eerie evening glow in the still heat.

Sweltering Summer days are sometimes referred to as the ‘dog days of Summer.’ This comes from the Roman phrase ‘dies caniculares.’ It was noted by the Romans, that the star Sirius (also called the Dog Star) began to rise in the sky before the sun towards the end of July. The star was so bright that they believed it gave extra heat to the sun and was responsible for the hot days of Summer.

The rising hot air and moisture provide perfect conditions for thunder. At 30,000 degrees celsius, lightning is five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

A single thundercloud is more powerful than any nuclear power plant on earth. It has been calculated at approximately 1 billion volts.

Isn’t nature amazing?

Heatwave

The intense heat appears to give an eerie golden glow in the evening.

Barley field.
Tall grasses illuminated by the evening sun.
Gold.
Wild flowers.
Cobwebs elegantly draped over a nettle.
Backlit wildflowers.
Blinding sun.
Fading sun.

Ancient woodland

The term ‘ancient woodland’ in itself conjures up something magical and mystical. It describes an area of woodland that has been in existence since the 1600’s. It has developed naturally with unique ecosystems and the woodland has not been disturbed by mankind. Sadly, these special places only account for 2.4% of the UK.

All the leaves on the trees were out in full – brand new, perfect leaves in that fresh shade of almost luminous green. They always look at their peak in May, before the colour slightly fades and the leaves get their lived-in appearance and become tatty looking as the Summer goes on.

The light was perfect, weaving its way through small patches and lighting up the ground where the leaves had not yet formed a complete canopy. It provided that beautiful dappled appearance, great for photography.

Ferns growing tall.
Red Campion
New leaves.
Light reaching a solitary blade of grass on the woodland floor.

Frothy white bubbles of cow parsley

It’s everywhere at the moment, lining shady stretches of country lanes and stretches of woodland. It has lots of alternative names including fairy lace. Some think it looks like drifts of snow. It is a popular plant with pollinators.

Cow parsley is a member of the carrot family. It can be confused with hemlock and hogweed, one of which is poisonous and the other which has sap that can burn the skin.