Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Snow, headlines and blackbirds

click photo to enlarge
Some British journalists are bone idle and write their stories before the event that they describe has happened. "Exam joy" appears every summer accompanied by a photograph of incredulous, laughing students reading their results from the papers distributed by their schools, accompanied by text that records yet another increase in grades. Similarly, when a fall of the white stuff happens, out comes the headline "Arctic weather causes chaos", though to be fair, journalists sometimes revert to the less pithy (but essentially similar), "Country grinds to halt under blanket of snow." Then follows the inevitable article about how Britain can't cope with a fall of snow that is regarded as minor or routine in other places. Such pieces involve an unedifying mixture of sloth and ignorance.

If these journalists had the slightest familiarity with geography, meteorology or even general knowledge they would know that the snow that falls on the heavily populated areas of Britain doesn't come every year, doesn't come in the same amounts, and is of varying consistencies. Consequently it is not cost effective, nor is it good sense, to have in place the measures that are appropriate in Canada, Norway or Arctic Siberia. Furthermore, the writers of these articles don't appear to have noticed that our island is one of the most densely populated areas of Europe, and that a road blocked by a vehicle mishap involving snow has bigger repercussions than elsewhere. Nor have they realised that our relatively mild, maritime climate invariably results in freeze-thaw conditions around snowfalls, which bring a particularly troublesome set of circumstances that don't apply where snow lays long-term. I can just about forgive the ignorance of the Canadian tourist I heard bemoaning the disruption to flights at Heathrow and disparagingly comparing the snow clearing measures there with those in her country. However, I find it hard to take from people who live here and should be aware of the facts - probably the same people who'd be writing articles about the waste of public money on snowclearing equipment that would lay idle for years on end if our authorities followed the advice of these benighted commentators.

The disruption that the snow caused to the blackbirds in my garden appears to be fairly minimal. This "tame" cock bird found it harder than usual to stand on my kitchen window cill provoking me to feed it some scraps, but otherwise they just got on with the daily grind of foraging. It's clearly harder for the birds when snow is laying, so I've increased the amount of seed, nuts and titbits that we usually offer in winter to help them through this "Arctic Hell" (irony alert).

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On