Monday 11 December 2023

December Darkness

Grant Park Lochan - 'the skating pond', Grantown-on-Spey

Since the snow thawed last week darkness has fallen on the land. At least that's how it feels. I had forgotten just how much brightness snow brings to the short daylight hours and weak low sun of December. Not that the latter has been visible anyway. Dark clouds have covered the sky, adding to the gloom. At midday it has felt barely light, more like dawn or dusk than noon.

Heron & Mallard

The snow melting has been good for wildlife though.  Food is more easily available and nights are warmer. Lochs and lochans are no longer frozen, or only partially so. On a walk through Anagach Woods and beside the River Spey I watched a heron standing motionless in the faded reeds around Grant Park Lochan (known locally as the skating pond) while Mallard ducks swam and dabbled in the still ice-spattered water. 

River Spey

Along the Spey there was no sign of ice, the river dark, full, and fast, rushing snowmelt from the hills down to the sea. Out on the water there many ducks, Goldeneye as well as Mallard. I watched them through binoculars as they drifted with the current then flew low back to their start point. No photographs - I hadn't brought the big lens and they were all on the far side of the wide river. I saw dippers too, and a big raptor flying fast through the trees. Buzzard? Red Kite? Too brief and partial a glimpse to be sure.

At times I could see distant hills, still streaked with snow. High up the thaw will be slow. Walking beside the swirling river, watching the birds and the clouds, the trees and the hills, I felt peaceful. It may be December, it may be dark, but nature is still beautiful. There will be more snow.

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