This is the acrobatic great spotted woodpecker that manages to cling onto the fat balls we hang out during cold weather (the red splodge on its head marks it out as a male). We haven’t seen this for several years, so it can’t be the same bird. There is a hierarchy among the birds for their turn. Size is the inevitable denominator: woodpeckers, nuthatches, great tits and blue tits. Robins and chaffinches can’t cling on so they hang around underneath, prospecting for the bits the others drop.
January was reasonably mild. But now we are in February and the weather is forecast to be freezing with some snow for at least a week. When the wind veers to the northeast, we batten down the hatches and get in supplies of food.
Vacuuming around my footwear upstairs yesterday brought home the differences between a British winter and a French one and between the lifestyles.
England: several pairs of high-heeled shoes, one pair of sandals (normally worn only when we went on holiday), a pair of trainers and Wellingtons. France: one pair of high-heeled shoes for the odd dressed-up occasion, several pairs of sandals and flat shoes, ankle boots, a pair of SAS-style fur-lined boots, Wellingtons, lightweight walking boots and heavy duty walking boots.
And don’t get me started on the woolly jumpers…
January this year wasn’t unduly cold. But it’s left me with an impression of gloominess and lack of sunshine.
A quick reminder of our subjective weather assessment: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In January we counted:
Pluses – 7
Zeros – 8
Minuses – 16
The chart shows the proportion of plus days each January for the past 17 years (the line is the trend).
We have had nine better, one the same and six worse, so this one was definitely on the poor side. And January shows the steepest downward trend of all the months of the year.
Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. This January it rained a little less than the average: 84 mm compared to the 91.1 mm we would normally expect. But it rained more often: on 17 days compared to the average of around 13 days.
The number of frost nights varies enormously from year to year. The fewest we have ever experienced were in winter 2000-2001, when there were only 17. The most were in winter 2004-2005, when we had 67, owing to a very cold January and February. That’s a difference of more than a month’s-worth of frost nights.
This winter we have had only 20 frost nights so far, 11 of them in January. But that looks set to change. And the odd frost as late as April is not unknown.
Let’s see what French wisdom has to say about the February weather. Here’s a dicton (saying):
“Février, le plus court des mois, est de tous le pire à la fois.” February is both the shortest of all the months and the worst.
I’ll go along with that, since I’m normally climbing the walls by the end of Feb. But at least the calendar is heading in the right direction.
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