A Snake in the Water

Friday 15th December 2000, West Yorkshire
ice PLATES of shattered ice lie around the puddles on the lane. The white frost hasn't given all day on the north-facing slope by the canal.

wren A Wren flies across the water in a direct line, 'buzzing' along just inches above the water, to the overhanging brambles on the opposite bank.

redwingsredwings One of the Redwings, a flock of about 20, makes a high-pitched 'tseep' contact call as they gather in the dark thorn bushes. Yesterday I also heard them making a soft chuckle-like call. Bird song is notoriously difficult to describe and the Peterson guide describes this call as a harsh 'chittuc'.

There may be fewer Blackbirds but their indignant alarm calls ring out more noticeably in the quiet stillness of dusk.

There's just a hint of rippling on this sheltered, shady stretch of water. Reflected in it is a length of vapour trail, which is glowing coral pink as it catches the last rays of the setting sun. As we walk along the towpath the sinuous rhythmic movement of the reflection gives it a striking resemblance to a snake swimming close to the surface.

planetsthe river at night As the sky rapidly darkens, the lights of a couple of planes shine brilliantly overhead, as do Venus to the south and Jupiter and Saturn to the east. The last two are in the constellation of Taurus but as yet no stars are visible. It's as if, for a while, we're privileged to take a brief look at our cosmic backyard; our own solar page

Related Links

I was able to check the identity of the planets by going to the observing notes section of the BBC's The Sky at Night web site at

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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