The first photograph shows low cloud breathing across a nearby hill in the icy pre-dawn chill of a late spring morning. I was excited by the ever shifting patterns of mist, cloud, and light, but anxious for newborn lambs (a farmer was racing round on his quad bike, checking up on them), and worried about the willow warblers, house martins, and other birds, newly arrived from Africa after a journey of some 5,000 miles. Would the small flies they depend on for food, survive? For the first time that I can remember, I listened to the dawn chorus in falling snow! Blackbirds and thrushes sang their hearts out as the white stuff blotted out sky, sun, and land, carpeting trees, houses, walls, paths, and roads with crystalline briliance.
There were snow showers on the 27th of April, and significant snowfalls on the mornings of the 28th and 29th. Its a long time since we’ve seen snow as late as this. According to the Met Office we had deep snow in England in late April 1981. Snow fell in May in 1997, and 1979, and on the 2nd of June 1975 several cricket matches were interrupted by the white stuff, but warming climate appears to have made such events rarer nowadays.
Thankfully the snow had gone by the afternoon apart from some streaky drifts decorating the higher hills. The willow warblers were singing again the next day, and despite worrying signs that house martins had dissapeared from some sites, they were soon back, hurtling around above our hillside. Less than ten days after the snow I was walking in woods where the bluebells seemed more intense than ever. There were casualities though. Many of our local toads didn’t emerge from hibernation. Perhaps they were beginning to wake up when temperatures plummeted? At one local migration route only about a tenth of the usual numbers were recorded.
I suppose I’ve become more attuned to the impermanence of forms, and to the exuberance of new life – but the season of song always feels too short. When death comes ‘at the wrong time’, its much harder to let go.