Winter has arrived in the Borders at last!

The Canada goose at Lindean Reservoir surrounded by mallards.

The Canada goose at Lindean Reservoir surrounded by mallards.

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For the second week in succession, I am writing about snow – winter has arrived at last. With sub-zero overnight temperatures and a good covering of snow, I had little hope on Sunday of producing any sort of list for my monthly wildfowl count.

At the first of my three lochs, I could immediately see that it was completely frozen over, with as much life on it as the inside of my deep freeze.

It was much the same story at my next port of call, but not only was it frozen over but the level was so high that the loch had overflowed onto the access road before icing over – no chance of getting a closer look whatsoever. From my distant vantage point I could see a small group of mute swans and mallards dozing on the ice.

Lindean Reservoir was my final stop and here too I was beginning to think it was a waste of time as it looked completely iced over. However, by this time “Treacle” the cockapoo was looking desperate for a walk so I decided to walk round the loch. Just as well too, as it turned out.

The sun was out and it was lovely and firm underfoot after weeks of soggy mud and I soon began to really enjoy the walk.

Fieldfares were scolding me from the top of a birch tree and a pair of ravens flew across the loch, their guttural croaks causing the dog to look skywards to see what their problem was. I could clearly see on the snow covered ice where a fox had ventured out to take a short cut, leaving behind a clear set of tracks.

Nearing the far end of the loch, I could see that there was a tiny scrap of open water which was surrounded by dozens of resting waterfowl – at last, something for me to count. Scanning the horde with my binoculars, I reckoned there were 80 mallard, nine mute swans and the bonus in the middle was a solitary Canada goose – a first for me at Lindean and the highest number of mallards I’ve encountered there.

The Canada is a large goose, with a distinctive black head and neck and large white throat patch. An introduced species from N America, it has successfully spread to cover most of the country, forming noisy flocks and is often regarded as a nuisance in areas where large numbers occur on amenity grassland and parks.

It is thought that around 62,000 pairs presently breed in the UK. I’m not sure where this individual came from but its normal pond or loch must have been frozen over.

It just goes to show that some days start out with little in prospect but often turn out quite differently.