After weeks of saying how topsy-turvy everything was due to the mild weather, suddenly winter is here.
Last Friday brought the first significant snowfall of the season so far, with about a couple of inches, making driving a bit of a challenge at first light.
At the time of writing, a couple of frosty nights has ensured that the snow is not going away anytime soon, so we’d better start getting used to it.
On Sunday morning I attended the carol service at Yarrow Kirk and how stunning the valley looked, bathed in dazzling sunshine. It really was Christmas card stuff.
Later on, I did my rounds of the three lochs I cover for the monthly wildfowl count and it was a bit of a waste of time.
All three were frozen solid with only a pair of mute swans sitting on the ice at one loch to record.
After the excitement of watching my first ever great grey shrike at Lindean Reservoir last month, the only feathered friend I encountered was a single blackbird, which was tucking into the last of the haws on a hawthorn tree near the boathouse. Despite the lack of wildlife, it was a magical day to be out and about.
Nearer home, my garden blackbirds have significantly increased in number. At first light there can over twenty hanging around “clucking” waiting for their sultana breakfast. I have also started to put a couple of damaged apples out every day, pinned to the lawn and they manage to devour every scrap before nightfall.
Many of these birds will be continental visitors and there is much controversy amongst birders as to how you tell the difference.
I have heard it said that the ones with black beaks are the visitors, but our first year juveniles have black beaks as well. Essentially, they are the same species and unless you hear them singing in a foreign accent, I reckon it is virtually impossible to tell them apart.
Wherever they come from, all our birds are hungry, especially during cold snaps, so it is essential we keep feeding them and making sure they have an ice-free supply of water.(Never use anti-freeze as this can potentially ruin their feathers, which they need to keep warm, or poison them).
Next week I will start my look back at 2011, but in the meantime I would like to wish all Border Country readers and correspondents, a very Merry Christmas.