Back at work today, and despite the backlog of emails and letters to wade through, there's one really good thing about it - it's warm. Really warm.
I spent a large part of the time between New Year and last night out birding, the majority of it at Kelham Bridge, near Coalville, looking for a highly elusive ringtail Hen Harrier. My timing must have been spectacularly bad, because although there have been fairly regular sightings, I've got nothing to show for hours of trudging round there, except what felt like hypothermia last night. I'm not convinced it's actually roosting there - if it is still around, I suspect it's roosting in one of the many National Forest planting schemes dotted around the surrounding area, and commuting to KB to hunt once or twice a day.
I say nothing to show, but that's a lie, of course. Having closed last year's patch list on 150 exactly, I've made a steady start with 64, including a lovely male Smew at Staunton Harold Reservoir yesterday. There have been Willow Tits and even Bullfinches on the feeders at KB, too, and despite my complaints, it's actually been quite nice to get a reminder of proper, old-fashioned winter weather (although the 2 inches of snow this morning was a bit unwelcome). Yesterday, I walked around Sence Valley Forest Park, thinking the harrier might have slipped across there. No luck, but walking along beside the stream, with the ground frozen hard and snow starting to fall, it was something like an English winter landscape is supposed to be. Umpteen Snipe, and one Jack Snipe, flushed from almost beneath my feet, and the occasional little flock of Redwings and Fieldfares.
Still, I wouldn't want it to last too long. Double figure temperatures by the weekend, please.