A visit from Jack Frost

Jack Frost has paid Forvie a call this week. Not David Jason’s irascible detective off the telly, but rather a snap of cold weather brought about by high atmospheric pressure and clear skies. And the results have been beautiful.

The Forvie Centre on Tuesday morning
The frozen pond at the Forvie Centre

Temperatures dropped to -4 degrees centigrade on Monday night into Tuesday morning, leaving the grass underfoot brittle and crisp, and the landscape rimed in ice crystals. The vegetation seen up close made for a wonderful sight.

Intricate frost crystals
Sparkly frost
A Teasel head with its dusting of ‘icing sugar’

Obviously the wildlife has a hard time of it when temperatures drop this low – especially if the cold snap continues for more than a couple of nights. The frozen ground prevents invertebrate-eaters from accessing worms and grubs, all the fresh water is locked up as ice, and even the remaining fruit in the trees is frozen solid. It’s a case of tough it out, or move on to somewhere milder.

Bittersweet berries in the frost on Tuesday morning
Tasty and edible for birds and small mammals – but not when frozen solid!

Bittersweet, also known rather poetically as Woody Nightshade, is a small berry-bearing plant. While it’s not as toxic as its more-famous relative, the notorious Deadly Nightshade, eating its berries would still give us a nasty stomach-upset. It’s curious therefore to think that two other members of the nightshade family are actually staple foods for us – Potato and Tomato. Look at the flowers of these, and of Bittersweet, and there’s an obvious family resemblance. But though Bittersweet isn’t good for us to eat, its berries are a favourite among birds and small mammals. They just need to be thawed out first!

Rose hips
Looking beautiful with a coating of frost

Rose hips are another fruit that tends to persist into the winter, long after other fruits have rotted or been eaten. The tough fleshy capsules contain a mass of seeds, and they sustain species like Wood Mice, Greenfinches and Blackbirds through the cold days. Their bright colours also help to liven up the monochrome icy landscape now that the leaves have all fallen.

Ythan estuary sunrise, on a perfectly still morning

The other lovely thing about frosty mornings is the stillness of the air. High atmospheric pressure produces clear nights, cold air and little or no wind. And this means fabulous sunrises, unruffled water and great photo opportunities. The Reserve arguably looks its finest on these mornings.

Frosty grass – you can almost feel the crunch!

So next time the forecast indicates that Jack Frost is on his way, it’s well worth making the effort to get out and experience it. The crisp cold air, the crunch of the grass under your feet and the ‘ice art’ are just rewards for leaving your warm bed a bit earlier than usual. And you’ll enjoy your morning cuppa all the more when you get back. Wrap up warm, mind!