Friday 6 February 2009

And The Snow Continues

The blue skies of yesterday afternoon and the starry sky of the early night proved just a lull in the storm and by dawn the air was thick with gently falling snow that continued all day. Following the suggestion of my skiing neighbour yesterday I ventured out on snowshoes and they were indeed easier and less arduous to use than skis in the soft deep snow. Quicker too, for once. The snowshoes also enabled me to wander off the tracks and into the woods without having to worry about negotiating the trees. The air was hazy and grey – no sign of the sun today.

The forest was silent and still, the only movement the slowly falling snowflakes. Tracks showed where a rabbit had ventured out or a roe deer had stepped but mostly the snow was unbroken. Even the usually noisy pheasants were absent. Back home I topped up the bird feeders and watched coal tits, blue tits, great tits and chaffinches as they pecked at the peanuts and seeds, trying to acquire enough energy to survive another freezing night. Beautiful though the snow makes the land it can be deadly for birds, covering food sources. How desperate the situation can be was shown by the presence of five robins on the bird tables and seed trays. Usually these solitary birds won’t tolerate other robins and drive them off aggressively but today they just ignored each other. Food was far more important than fighting. One robin even managed to cling to the wire mesh of a feeder and feed off the peanuts, something I’ve not seen before.

Keeping warm in the snow for this human has not been difficult as there has been little wind and the effort of skiing and snowshoeing creates much heat. Hats have been quickly abandoned, the jacket hood used to keep off the snow enough for warmth as well. Thin gloves have been all I needed on my hands. Ploughing through ankle to knee deep snow might seem to be a good way to suffer cold feet but thick wool socks inside my old leather ski touring boots with supergaiters on the outside kept my feet warm while skiing and snowshoeing. However I wanted to move the car closer to the nearest public road so there was less chance of it being snowed in and driving in ski boots is difficult so I changed to ultralight flexible footwear inside knee-high NEOS overshoes. Walking back up the track from the car this combination was warm enough though I wouldn’t have wanted to be out for hours.

Now at 10.30 pm the outside temperature is -1°C and the snow has stopped. Blizzards are forecast for tomorrow.

Photo info: Snowshoe Tracks. Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS@18mm, 1/100@F5.6, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.


  1. Great stuff, Chris. Yes, I too am keeping the bird feeders topped to the max these days.

    Which snowshoes were using, may I ask. I used a pair of TSL ones in very deep drifts near Glas Tulaichean on Thursday. I was sinking as much as when walking without them on. And getting out of the holes again was much tougher with the shoes on! The snow was very soft and powdery, as you know, but I was really disappointed in my snow shoes.

    So I am wondering if it was me,or if in those snow conditions (deep powdery drifts going uphill) not even snow shoes can help you.


  2. Andy, mine are Baldas Trek snowshoes. They sank in a fair bit but much less than when walking. The Treks are 62cms long and 23cms wide. For this deep powdery snow bigger snowshoes would have been better.

  3. Thanks for the info, Chris.

    I see. I've just googled for Baldas and checked them out. Well, the sizes are comparable with the TSL (mine are 56cm x 29cm (if I measure even the little tip at the back it's 59cm). But the TSL are only 1.6kg and the pattern is completely different. The Baldas seem to have a much 'closer' pattern, that's why they don't sink as much, I think. So I bought myself a lemon, I suppose...

  4. Andy, the Baldas Trek shoes sink more than I would like! Bigger shoes would be better. The pattern does make a difference but I think the size is crucial. TSL snowshoes do have a good reputation.

  5. We've had Blackbirds eating from our table feeder and even the hanging peanut feeder, quite amusing to see them try and work it out! Never seem to do it when the camera is to hand though.

    We've also had a Crow eating from the ground feeder, the smaller birds just ignore him(her), like you say they all seem to put up with each other when the weather is like this.