Wet, Wet, Wet or What?

Weather witch on TV put it pleasantly enough:
“We have had a period of settled cold, now we are in a time of unsettled warmer air …”
Damned right – we had beautiful, even picturesque frost: on Wednesday I watched it through the windows of a pantomime-in-Telford bound coach as it unspooled itself in black and white, high contrast glory. Like icing sugar sifted onto black boled trees, ridges in ploughed fields clear and parallel perspective-pinched lines aimed at the bases of pylons and laid hedges (that’ll be Shropshire, then)…
… now enter the rain. More rain. The roads today are flooded in this part of the world, with pot-holes wide and deep enough to at the tyres and suspension units of my Vauxhall Vectra, making the CD case of the Skynyrd CD bounce around the cabin like a vengeful cat. There’s nowhere else for the water to go – and some places here are far more seriously affected. The fields still shine with surface water, that, a few days ago had been turned into fairy tale pockets of ice surrounded by frozen towered mud castles. Now Friesian cattle stand bucolically up to their knees in expanding puddles.
In the garden, the bird feeder is quiet, unattended. The scraps of bacon I put out last night shine like unburied treasure, the feeder hangs its sunflower seed load but draws nothing from shelter. The fine-tinsel sighting of a jay (a first for this garden!) in the apple tree a few days ago no more than a fondly held memory.
There are a couple of blackbirds jousting on the lawn over some part-rotten apples; they seemed to cooperate in the freeze, but are competing again now. Is that normal ?
Then a single starling drifted in. These birds have a tremendous airborne agility, but this one – alone – did not stay long.
The rain eased off, but I remained at the window: a little hypnotised perhaps and finding motivation a dying art, continued to stare. House sparrows. They perch, swaying, atop the big, bold green-with-a-vengeance rhododendron buds.
But the food on offer is not their main target today They head for the bird bath, complete with as-yet-unfrozen lump of moulded ice and cheerfully immerse themselves and each other in water that has to challenge their temperature moderation systems. Which are – what? Exactly?
How do birds regulate their body temperatures, I wonder.
But I am taken by their energy and pleasure. As they bat wings at each other, drops of liquid flying in all directions I am put in mind of Romans at a public bath, but cannot remember what the coldest-water room was called. Help please?
15th December, 2012

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