The marshes remained rather quiet throughout the cold snap. Before the weather closed in, a small wintering population of up to 14 snipe had been present, but these dispersed when their favoured feeding areas were iced over. A jack snipe, the common snipe’s smaller cousin, was present on December 5th.
35 black-headed gulls were standing forlornly on the iced-up Tonford Lake on December 11th, and the same morning a water rail was heard giving its impersonation of a squealing pig at the edge of the lake.
Winter visitors have been scarce. Three tufted duck have been seen on Tonford Lake all month, next to no meadow pipits have been present on the fields and only the occasional little grebe appeared on the river. Winter thrushes generally seem to be in short supply, with just a flock of nine fieldfare flying over the marshes on December 21st.
Two collared doves returned to the embankment after not being spotted for two months, and a pair of stonechats were seen on the 27th after a month’s absence. On milder days blue tits and great tits have been heard, as well as song thrush, mistle thrush, robin and even blackbird. A chiffchaff was heard calling on the 21st, so evidently managed to struggle through the freezing spell – being small and insectivorous puts you at a distinct disadvantage when confronted with cold weather.