Finally, the so-so mild weather broke. Quite dramatically so, in an intense flurry of wet snow that exactly coincided with my morning cycle commute. The air filled with fat flakes that looked stereotypically fluffy but stung when they caught me in the eye; still, I was glad to see some real winter weather and enjoyed struggling against adversity. Twenty minutes later I arrived at my destination, soggy but not anything like as soaked as I had been by rain from a similarly well-timed active cold front earlier in the winter. Fortunately, while like most people I see a little rain as an inconvenience, the meteorologist in me loves being out in extreme weather. If it’s going to rain, it may as well be spectacular!
Within what felt like just a few minutes the clouds melted and we were left with one of those perfect bright winter days. After a morning teaching I made it out into the real world of the Whiteknights ‘wilderness’, enjoying sharp air interrupted only by the funk of fox or a whiff of weed smoke, this after all being a university campus. On a brightly lit patch of laurel several blowflies loitered, occasionally taking off to reshuffle leaves before resuming their solar charging.
These are the moments on the very frontier of spring, when the air is still cold and any warmth in the low sun is still barely discernible, but birds know the days are getting longer and seem to ramp up their activity to match. The bright clear calls of long-tailed tits and blue tits in roving flocks matched the freshness of air and sky. Subtly moving among the tit flocks, goldcrests hovered and darted. Sticking to the cover of ivy or evergreen, they are all movement, though perhaps not as restless and lightning-quick as firecrests. When I’ve had a longer run of watching both species together I can almost pick them apart by behaviour alone, but I’m rusty. No reports of firecrest from Whiteknights since November, but the memory of past sightings haunts my watching of many quiet corners of campus and I feel sure I will catch up with one soon.