"The Beast from the East" - we knew it was on its way and us teachers were praying for more than just a few flakes. Often when there's a cold snap in the UK and Europe we barely notice it here, as it just gets a little more chilly. However, this time we knew we were due to get the first brunt of it, as a line of snow clouds moved up the Channel. On Monday evening we got a light sprinkling and with more forecast overnight, on Tuesday (27th Feb) we woke up to a definite white carpet outside. However, it wasn't exactly super-thick and I wasn't sure that school would be open or not. Checking on the internet, the message was that, despite some other schools being closed (eg the kids' schools) ours would be open - darn it! So I set off at a slow speed around the coast on the snow-covered road and arrived at school to find I was the only one in the car park! It seems that due to a communication breakdown the school was shut and so I headed home and played with the kids in the garden - the first snow they had seen for five years. Later on in the morning the snow started falling again and pretty fast, dumping a fresh layer everywhere. After lunch it was still snowing but I decided I just had to go for a walk in the snow.
I strode out northwards towards the coast and as I reached L'Islet, the snow came down the fastest it had done all day and I could barely see anything. I tried to shelter in Vale Pond hide but the snow was blowing straight in the front windows. I was hoping for a rare duck or something to have appeared on the lake but all I could see was a group of Snipe forlornly poking around, a snowy Little Egret and a couple of Shelduck which were slowly getting covered in flakes.
The weather was almost blizzard-like now but I wandered around Grandes Havres and Vale Churchyard anyway, enjoying these unusual conditions, and trying to take some photos. There was not a lot of birds to see but mainly because I couldn't see very much at all.
The next couple of days were also spent at home as the school was shut again, however since Rosie was still at work I wasn't able to search for weather-strewn birds. On Friday 2nd March, all the kids were back in lessons and I popped down to L'Eree at lunchtime to see some of the birds that had arrived during this cold spell, many of which I hadn't seen here for a while. The best of these was Avocet and I was surprised to find out there were two feeding on the saltmarsh as I was expecting only one. They were showing really well and I managed a few snaps in the dull conditions by sneaking up to the wall. There were up to 30 Lapwing and some Golden Plovers resting on the grass along with a Common Gull. Another highlight were three spanking male Pintails on the scrape with a female in tow. All these species, apart from a few plovers, only ever arrive here very rarely in winter mainly when the weather is snowy. Oh, and I mustn't forget the rarest bird there, the Canada Goose that was strolling around in the distance - I didn't drive round for a closer look.
After work, I drove past a couple of likely spots for some cold-weather patch-ticks and soon found a Lapwing on the footie pitch at Port Soif - the first on the patch for 5 years! Also there were small groups of Fieldfare and Redwing plus a few Golden Plovers were on the beach at Grandes Havres. Quite a handy haul for a quick 15 minute look.
I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours in the field on Sunday morning (4th Mar) when it was sunny but still quite cold. At the Foulon Cemetery there was a single Hawfinch showing well, feeding on the ground under a Yew tree just as I arrived. Much easier than my previous two visits. Thereafter, I had plenty of sightings of probably 2 birds but they were mostly at tree-top height. So really good views but I wanted to see them closer. I didn't really look for much else there but a couple of Siskins showed well in the tree tops and a Firecrest was feeding literally 2 metres from my face at one point.
I headed home via Rue des Hougues, especially to twitch a flock of 300 Lapwing which had arrived on the 'plateau' during the freeze up. They were still present in the dirt fields, albeit mostly over the brow, and there were plenty of Golden Plovers mixed in. There was also a flock of Common Gulls feeding in another field and I counted a minimum of 9 birds - easily the highest number I had ever encountered on the island.
I was grateful that the "Beast from the East" had brought in a few birds to brighten up an slow late winter season, but was a little disappointed that there wasn't something a little more epic amongst them.