Monday 27 November 2023

A cold morning

I am always conflicted with cold weather. One the one hand local birding can get more interesting, as was the case with the Whooper Swans. On the other my precious plants start to suffer, and in some cases, keel over and die. I am currently agonising over a now 14 foot tropical pine tree that in previous winters has just about scraped under the conservatory roof but this year is simply too tall. Online literature suggests it dies much below 3 degrees centigrade..... I could cut off the top 3 feet perhaps, but the symmetry of this and many other Araucaria is a large part of their beauty and once so lopped never returns. I am more inclined to see if it can somehow survive the occasional frost. This week was the first test, it got down to about -1c for a few hours... If it doesn't (and knowing this sad day would one day likely come) I bought a replacement tree of the same species about two years ago. Like its big brother it lives outside for most of the year, but it small enough that I can easily bring it in. This one has already doubled in height in the two years that I've had it and is now about 7 feet tall. I brought it in in about mid-October, neither too early nor too late. The chief issue here is that it might get too hot and too dry on sunny days. They're fickle things.

Chief tree in waiting

I was out on Wanstead Flats early on Sunday as well. It was if anything colder than Saturday, and I had high hopes of further cold weather action. These went unfulfilled but it was one of those great crisp days with clear skies. I suspect that the strong northerlies displaced the Swans on Friday, and Saturday was all about them getting their bearings. Other London sites also cashed in, including both Regent's Park and Hampstead Heath who both picked up Whoopers before we did, simultaneously observing nine birds, two adults and seven juveniles, which two hours later had presumably split up into a group of five or six on the river, five of which meandered our way briefly, with the other three unaccounted for. None were seen on Sunday that I'm aware of so they have probably resettled somewhere more suitable and have hopefully all found each other again. But even though it was colder on Sunday, it wasn't so cold that it would have provoked an exodus of Ducks and Waders from outside of London to head in to our relative warmth, that really only happens with extreme events. The kind of events that will definitely kill my tree...


  1. Why not insulate the trees with a nice big plastic bag? To keep the temperatures up a degree or two inside, I suggest some of those air activated foot warmers. Cheap heat source which last a few hours.

  2. Bubblewrap it and place ina south facing spot in shelter.