Sleet slashed across the garden, driven by the buffeting northerly that bowed and bent shrub, bush and tree to its will. A cold day, early in February, gripped by winter.
In beautiful contrast, Monday sent thoughts forward to the coming of spring and the promise of regular warmth and increased vitality. Clearing and digging a vegetable bed, finally released from the grip of frost, the sun warmed the back, the sunlight the colour of primroses, brushed clean by the sprightly wind and the lines of winter cumulus that marched across the sky. The first snow-drops were showing under the apple tree, spikes of daffodil and tulip pushing through the soil; undeniable signs that nature’s seasonal calendar was ticking on. In recent weeks the trees and hedges have been showing their first buds, attracting the attention of the marauding flocks of finch and tit. Last year’s seed cones, hanging alongside the purple catkins in the branches of the water-side alder trees draw clouds of lemon-green siskins. Like the finches and tits they still maintain their winter flocks, not yet released to pair up and get on with the real business of spring.
Background birdsong is gently growing. No longer just the delicate song of the winter robin catches the ear. Great tits send their strident ‘teacher’ across the treetops, fields and gardens. The Goldcrest gently ‘pips’ as it moves through ivy-covered trunks and the wren, more confident, adds it’s note too. Sparrows chirp in tight-knit bushes and the Blackbird serenades from it’s telegraph pole, ensuring the maximum audience for it’s rolling song.
Light remains in the sky noticeably later already, though the winter equinox is no distant memory. With the clouds blown through, clear skies accompany the winter sun as it sinks behind and through the silhouetted plantation, leaving the uncut meadow in twilight shadow. The over-wintering barn owl has left his roost on the other side of the river and passes through the field, silent and graceful, creamy milk wings cutting graceful shapes above the sand coloured grasses clumped by winter frosts. The bird takes a break on a branch and surveys the field in search of revealing movement and the prospect of a meal.
The owl passes on to search in pastures new, a moment later replaced in view by another majestic flyer, our now regularly visiting red kite. The low sun catches russet feathers as wings and unmistakable tail twitch in perfectly managed control of the vagarious wind. It passed over calmly and without urgency, unaware of how it touched the hearts of those below, brought smiles of excitement and would be a part of words passed across the world.