A Dog Day

Another cold day but, unlike yesterday, without the sunshine. I was not too bothered that I was in the office for most of the morning, at least if was warm. By the time we got out on site it had brightened up a fair bit, although the dampness in the air still gave things a cold feel.

We visited Hook Heath to look at clearance tasks, we are trying to join up the various grassy areas by widening narrow gaps between the scrub and so reduce the trampling that occurs when the cattle walk single file from one area to another. There is lots to do but recent work on the site has made a huge difference and the Red Devon cattle that grazed the site this year did an excellent job. The woodland around the reserve was pretty quiet, as woods often are in the winter when many birds flock together, if you do not come across a flock you see next to nothing. We did hear green woodpecker and marsh tit though.

From there it was off to Farlington to take a look at how the restoration works are going, now that the Environment Agency are pulling out, thankfully things still seem to be on course for them to be off site by the weekend. We stopped for lunch at the Building and hearing bearded tit calling from near the path took a walk over and were rewarded with excellent views of a male feeding on bent seed heads of reeds. The breeze today would have made feeding on the tops of the stems difficult and so the broken stems are more sheltered, although this usually makes them much more difficult to see. In this case the bird was so close that the fact that it was low down in the reeds did not matter. When seen well they look very exotic, despite being close there was no chance of a picture, but just seeing one well is always a treat. There are some birds that, even if seen regularly demand that you look at them, beaded tits are one such species, for me others are red kite, chough and nuthatch, they all seem to have that certain something. Of course it is not just birds that have this quality and I expect everyone will have their own list of things that will always demand attention.

As we left to head over to Swanwick Lakes to meet with the angling club about their winter work program of swim clearance we were distracted by a sun hound or sun dog or more properly a parhelion , this phenomenon occurs when the sunlight is refracted by ice crystals, usually high in the sky in cirrus cloud. I have seen them a fair few times, but this one was especially colourful and then Rob noticed that it was a double one, that is to say there was one each side of the sun! strictly this mean we had seen parhelia.

sun hound or sun dog

sun hound or sun dog

The sun is over to the right of the picture and the sun dog is the coloured spot to the left hand side. I could not get both in the same picture, but I did get a closer shot of one.

sun hound or sun dog zoomed in

sun hound or sun dog zoomed in

Although I had seen a few before this was the first time I had seen a pair one opposite the other. Looking them up it seems they are always at least 22 degrees away from the sun but level with it, they also seem to be more common when the sun is low in the sky. In exceptional cases they can form huge arcs either side of the sun, a few of the pictures from around the world are amazing. I am still waiting to see my number one most wanted atmospheric phenomenon though, the aurora borealis (or even australis) but I think the chance at Farlington of seeing even the first is slight!

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