Wednesday 7 April 2010

A Rapid Thaw: From Winter To Spring

The two photos above were taken five days apart. The first was during a ski tour from home after the heavy snow that fell at the end of March. The snow was knee deep and it felt like winter, with a cold wind and the temperature below freezing. The waders that nest in the meadows in spring, which had been very noisy the week before, were gone, driven down to the lowlands and out to the coast by the blizzards and snow. Rabbits and roe deer had made tracks to grassy banks where they had scraped through the snow to gnaw at the frozen vegetation underneath. A few buzzards drifted overhead. Two roe deer high-stepped awkwardly through the deep snow in the trees. Usually they will speed away on seeing a person but for one of them this was too much effort and it sank down into the snow and simply watched me as I passed by. Then two days ago came rain and a warmer wind and a big thaw began, stripping the snow from the land and sending gushing streams down tracks and gullies and filling the meadows with pools of slush. Today I followed the same route and was amazed at how much snow had gone. The air was warm and there was colour in the land. The waders had returned and I listened to the cries of lapwings, curlews and oystercatchers and watched them whirling overhead. Songbirds called in the woods. There were catkins on the willows. Rabbits nibbled the freshly revealed grasses. No spring flowers had yet appeared, not even their leaves, but it did feel as though the season had changed. This time perhaps spring is really here.

Photo info: Both photos Canon EOS 450D, Canon 18-55 IS lens, raw files converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.6. Top photo 18mm, 1/125@ f8, ISO 100. Bottom photo 20mm, 1/160@f5.6, ISO 200.


  1. We're experiencing a similarly fast paced thaw here on the west coast of Norway too. I left Bergen, blanketed with deep snow, for a weeks ski guiding and when I got back it was all gone. There are still a few small resilient pockets, hiding in hollows and sheltered spots but it's colour that now presides over the countryside now.

  2. Ah good. Spring has arrived in Scotland!

  3. Great comparison. Well done for having the forethought to take two shots from the same spot.
    A bit further south, in Perthshire, the snowdrops are only just going over and butterbur and coltsfoot are flowering.

  4. Are there any flooding issues associated with the rapid snow-melt Chris?

    I remember someone I used to know in Dunkeld telling me that a rapid thaw on Ben Lawers and some of the other hills around Loch Tay would manifest itself many days later as rising river levels around Dunkeld and Perth.

  5. I heard there was some flooding around the mouth of the Spey and there were some flood warnings but that's all. There have been serious floods on the Spey and Findhorn but not this time.