This is the second of my seasonal posts covering Mowbray Field in Didcot. My first post, published in autumn, contained an overview and visitor details so do pop over to this blog if you’re unfamiliar with the reserve.
It’s fitting this post is written at the end of the coldest week of the 2020-21 winter, albeit one with little snow. Instead I have cheated a little and included some photos from the snowy Sunday a few weeks back.
That snowy Sunday was the busiest I’ve ever seen Mowbray Field. Everyone seemed to be out sledging on the hill, building snowmen or having snowball fights. My visit yesterday was a much quieter affair. Snow had been replaced by mud and only a few people were out braving the cold.
I walked down into the centre of the reservoir, to the wooden viewing platform. Conservationists have been busy, chopping back scrub and sawing down some of the trees. I don’t know much about conservation techniques but the area they’d been working on felt more open which will presumably encourage more species diversity. It always amuses me that nature conservation consists mostly of chopping things down or digging things up!
The far corner of the reserve, near the stream, is my favourite place to spot birds. I watched a chaffinch hopping around the branches and a robin and blackbird flitted across my path. A couple of weeks ago a flock of redwings and fieldfares were flying around the trees but they were nowhere to be seen yesterday. Most of the autumn berries and seeds have gone over, or been eaten, which makes me wonder what they’re still finding to eat.
Despite the freezing temperatures water was still flowing freely in the stream and hadn’t frozen in the deepest pools in the reservoir. I checked for frog and toad spawn on the edges but I guess they’ve decided it’s still too cold.
Spring isn’t far away. Several of the trees and shrubs had buds and I found catkins on a pussy willow. There are also daffodils in bud along the edge of the reservoir; not wild I know but they do add a splash of colour. The days are getting noticeably longer and hopefully this cold snap will be the last of the winter.
Sadly I noticed the dog poo bag fairy hadn’t visited recently. Some dog owners still think that hanging poo bags in trees around the stream border or throwing them down the edge of the reservoir is acceptable. It’s not! Fortunately I found very little litter elsewhere within the reserve, although this may be thanks to local litter pickers.
My next blog about Mowbray Field will be in the spring. I’m looking forward to seeing leaves on trees, lighter evenings and feeling some warmth. It can’t come soon enough!
Have you braved the cold on a walk this week?