After bemoaning the lack of winter weather last week, suddenly we were hit by some really hard frosts at the weekend, but they brought some lovely, crisp, sunny days as compensation.
Birdlife is moving up a gear as they prepare for the breeding season, especially the local buzzard population. On one mild day last week, their number reached into double figures as they circled overhead near my house, mewing loudly.
It was a spectacular sight and one I would never have expected to see when I was a youngster.
There have been early reports of oystercatchers on the river, but it is still a bit early for the main influx which usually takes place in early February.
On Sunday, I was out in the sunshine for my monthly wildfowl count, but despite the cheering rays, the temperature remained firmly below zero.
The first of my ponds was completely frozen and devoid of birdlife, so there was no point in hanging around. The second one was similarly icebound, but there was a tiny patch of open water where a pair of mute swans lazed around and did a bit of preening. As I watched, one left the water and hauled itself very inelegantly onto the ice and started to walk to the shore, slipping and sliding as its wet feet failed to get any grip on the slick surface.
Resting in the adjacent reeds were around 25 teal, they too finding that their food supply was locked in the freezer.
My third water body was Lindean Reservoir and here too things looked hopeless as the water was frozen from shore to shore. Not the best of places for waterfowl at the best of times, I held out little hope of seeing anything in these conditions.
Halfway round, however, I was amazed to see that large numbers of ducks were hauled out on the ice, dozing in the sunshine. A quick tally up revealed 55 mallard and one conspicuous white duck in their midst, which turned out to be a handsome male goldeneye.
He was a winter visitor from Scandinavia and must have decided that there was safety in numbers, and teamed up with the local mallard population.
When predators are around, the more eyes on the lookout the better. There was also a pair of mute swans on the ice, so things didn’t turn out so bad after all.