Sunday, October 28, 2012

October Snow! Winter Arrives Early!

Migrating Geese
Quickly disappear
Flying like ghosts
Through the Autumn snow

October 27, 2012 .. many of the trees are full of green leaves. The Willow and Acacia trees, the Sycamore and all the smaller bushes closer to the ground are still green. There will be no Autumn this year .. Winter has arrived.

I knew it when I saw the flowering Elder trees at the beginning of the year. I love Elder trees and have observed them closely since I was a child. I have never seen so many flowers on the trees as there were this year, in 2012...

There is a saying of our forefathers: When the trees produce an abundance of berries you know a harsh Winter is coming. The Elder trees were almost completely white with flowers, and then the branches were heavy with elderberries beyond abundance.

The Elder trees are now still green with leaves and the dark clusters of berries are still hanging on the weighted branches. But .. Winter is suddenly here .. the snow has arrived early.

The sudden and extreme drop in temperature has set the migratory Geese into flight. I am on the "flight path" .. their magnetic path crosses directly over my head. As cold as it is today, I have learned something new. I have learned to see with my ears what I cannot see with my eyes.

Large flocks of migrating Geese began their flights South three days ago .. lots of them. It is difficult for the migratory birds to leave earlier, should temperatures suddenly drop. The young birds have to develop and be strong enough to fly those challenging distances.

Birds migration routes are called "flyways" [and not flight-paths ;-) ] .. I could hear the Geese all times of the day passing overhead in large flocks. Days before, I could already hear the calls of Herons .. but now .. it is mostly migrating flocks of Geese.

Migrating Geese talk to each other and call out as they fly .. especially when there is bad weather .. misty/foggy .. or low, rainy-grey cloud cover. I could hear the groups passing in the clouds from early morning to the afternoon and evening. Only today, was I lucky to see them.

There have been larger concentrations of migrating Geese passing overhead in the last three days. I don't usually hear so many in such a short time. You don't always see them; but you can mostly hear them calling to each other.

Today, I saw larger groups of Geese flying through the driving snow and icy winds. First I heard them, then I saw them .. grey upon ghostly grey. They soon disappeared into the wind driven snow. Their 2012, Autumn migration has become a cold Winter migration.

Migrating Geese form flying squadrons and the V shaped formations often follow one behind the other .. sometimes split into three or four groups. I think this is why they talk back and forth. If they cannot see each other they can hear each other .. and they encourage each other to fly.

Some birds come from Russia, they continue to fly down through Central Germany, through Central France, through Central Spain and then they fly straight to the narrowest Mediterranean crossing .. to Africa via Gibraltar.

Scientists were reporting at the end of November, 2011 that birds were delaying their migrations South due to rising temperatures. This year many birds left early. Their "Autumn migration" South is being made more difficult by freezing temperatures, icy winds and driving wet snow.

In 2011 there was no snow here all year round and not a lot of moisture or ice. When the South of France had heavy snow - I was wearing a Summer jacket. Birds from the far North stop over in this area .. using the wetlands and marshes on their long journey South. The micro-climate keeps us warm through until January/February. But, not this year!

In Spring, 2011 .. the Elder trees produced hardly any flowers and the small amount of elderberries dried up fast in the warm dry heat of Summer .. the following Winter was mild. I knew when I saw the [2012] fruit trees heavy with cherries, plumbs, berries and apricots that this Winter was going to be harder. I have never seen so many cherries on the branches of those trees.

Compared to other areas our October snow and sleet was extremely "mild" .. some areas were covered in 10cm of snow. Although snowfall is rare in October, historically this happens every 20 to 30 years, and is know by the Farmers Wisdom Almanac. Of course! The farmers know the long term weather cycles better than anyone.

From my observations, 2012 is a "water year". Flooding around the world has translated to a warm (but humid) Summer .. and now a watery cold-wet Autumn/Winter. There is a lot of water in the air.

This amount of water may translate into widespread storms, inundations, sudden changes in temperature .. warm to cold / cold to warm. However, it could translate into an early end to Winter and a quick return of mild weather.

One Old Farmer Almanac says:
"Snow fall in October and the Winter will be mild."

The Geese were not hanging around to find out !!