1981 January & February

January 1st
It is four o’clock and about 2½” of snow has fallen. At first the snow was like drizzly snow and then it turned to large white flakes full of tiny delicate snow crystals. Now it is the softest, whispery, powder snow in tiny balls. I put some bread on the bird table this afternoon and seconds after I disappeared Starlings started to squabble for the crumbs. At one time six Starlings were fighting all at once. I banged on the window to scare them away because the smaller birds had no chance of getting their share of the food.

After that, a Robin, two Blue Tits, a pair of Blackbirds and a Magpie all came to the table. The Robin spent its time eating from the table, and then flying round to the bucket for some dog food scraps - a delicacy only for birds cheeky enough to come right up the window over the kitchen sink.

January 2nd
At Newcastle in England the River Tyne has frozen. The last time this happened was about thirty years ago. All over Britain people have been faced with Artic Scandinavian weather. Linton-on-Ouse had the most severe temperature at -31°C. In Scotland there have been drifts 15 feet deep in places and farmers have had great losses in livestock.

This morning six inches of snow lay on the ground when I woke. The sky was whitish-grey with snow clouds and patches of blue sky in between. The reservoir was frozen with ice and so was the lodge and pond.

January 3rd
The weather is the same as yesterday. A Robin flew into the wash kitchen and I had some trouble trying to get it outside again because it kept flying into the windows. Across at the tip I saw two Fieldfares. In places the snow had drifted to a foot deep.

On the way home I heard the sound of what at first I thought were geese on the reservoir. When I listened again it was the sound of the Whooper Swans. I saw three adults fly across the reservoir and another adult with three fully grown cygnets landed. The cygnets still had their grey fluffy feathered plumage. They landed on the ice for about a quarter of an hour and then flew on, but I did not see them go so they might still be somewhere on the reservoir. Tanker drivers are on strike, and schools up and down the country have been closed because there is no heating.

January 5th
In the morning the sky was clear blue and the sun shone very brightly over the sparkling snow. The snow was so bright that I had to wear sunglasses when I went a walk up the Back Meadow. In the afternoon the sky was still blue but there were many tiny white cotton wool clouds in the sky. There was a sea-green strip of sky that was nowhere near a blue shade, and not like any colour I have seen before.

In Pump House Wood I saw a small flock of about twenty Redwings, which I have never seen on the farm before. To my surprise a Wren landed on the Bathroom pipe and then crept along the wire and flew over the roof. I have never seen a Wren so near the house; it must have been desperate with hunger. Wrens are usually very shy secretive birds.

January 13th
Today the sky was still clear blue and about 20-24 Pink-footed Geese flew over the house. There were a few Gorse flower buds on the Gorse bush which seems unusual for this time of year, but at any time of year you are able to find a bit of blossom on the Gorse bush. A large Mistle Thrush came to the bird table; a rare visitor to the farm.

January 26th
Last night and yesterday there was quite heavy snow falls in fact more than I expected and because snow already lay on the ground this morning it was deep. The ice was thick on the road, and because there is no grit available conditions will probably become worse. I stayed off school because Dad did not think the coach would get up the village; it did arrive at half past eight but because of bad roads it reached school only at half past nine. This means it took three quarters of an hour longer than usual, and it serves the coach driver right for coming in the first place!

February 1st
This morning I was amazed to wake up and find that it was raining and the lane (previously a slab of ice) turned to slush. Later in the evening to my amazement it began to snow and became bitterly cold. I had expected it to thaw today.

February 5th
Today has been a lovely day: the sky was a light blue with a greenish blue above the horizon; there were white and purple clouds, the white ones were tinted with pink from the sinking sun. A cloud passed over the grey sketch of the moon. When the cloud had passed over, the moon reappeared - a bright white moon this time and more lifelike. As I looked to the west I saw that the sun had disappeared. The air was cold with a whisper of Spring in the air.

I found Cindy eating Fox droppings. There were some tracks leading along the bank in the Back Meadow. I followed them. Then out of the stream, on Radcliffe’s side of the wall, jumped an adult Fox. I held my breath; the Fox ran on, then stopped and looked back. Cindy would have chased it but my frantic shouts brought her back. We stood together; Cindy’s nose twitched, her ears raised as she stood taunt to the scent as it ran away over the hill.

February 8th
Today the sky was overcast and there was a very cold wind. I saw a pair of Magpies in the Lane Field. They flew into the field and alighted on the Sheep’s backs. Magpies land on Sheep’s backs to eat the ticks etc. but at this time of year there are not any ticks about so they just must have wanted a soft landing or to warm up their feet.

February 15th
Today there was a blizzard. Seven towns in the east of England were cut off. The roads were blocked with 6-10 feet drifts of snow: even snow ploughs could not get through. Many trains were stranded and police said conditions on roads were absolutely terrifying. For thirty years the weather as never been so bad; it is the worst I have ever known.

On the farm everything looks bleak. The hills have been smoothed by the freezing cold wind. Snow lies in ancient plough furrows and the fields are covered in ice. The lane in places is like a slab of ice. The ice reminds me of polished glass, or melted candle wax that has solidified. It is so cold that the stream has frozen almost solid, apart from a tiny trickle through the centre. The weather is from Russia and Siberia. England seems almost to be in a “little ice age” once again.

February 20th
It is slowly thawing and all day it has been foggy. In Radcliffe’s field I saw a flock of about 50 Lapwing; the first I have seen this year and a sign that Spring is on its way. A Song Thrush and Blue Tit came to the bird table. When I was walking home through the fields I heard Skylarks singing. Another sign that Spring is on its way, today is the first time they have sung this year.

February 23rd
The sky is blue with huge white cotton wool clouds and the sun is shining; altogether it’s a lovely day with a hint of Spring.

All the birds seemed to be singing; but by far the loveliest minstrel is the Skylark. Their song is so lovely it has made many people take note of the little brown birds that otherwise would be quickly dismissed. The sun was so warm that several flies came out. Much of the snow has turned to slush. The hard purple, brown, male catkins on the Alder trees have grown longer to about an inch.

Continued 1981 march