I stood with Nick Morgan on Saturday morning watching whooper swans fly North. Small groups of fieldfare persist, rattling in distant tree-lines, but their redwing accomplices have already left. I've covered so much ground this winter, more than in any year since I moved here. Every encounter with mammal or bird has felt like a stroke of vivid acrylic paint against the canvas of a brown and grey, barren landscape. I've come to know this season inside and out and now am ready for the next.
Like that semi-final, Spring looms but doesn't arrive. Lambs in the fields, prim flowers and blushing hedgerows give hope that Spring is close, but as the wintering birds gather to leave there is no sign of those travelling from the South. Soon the chattering martins on the river, the metronomic chiff-chaffs and the nectaring tortoiseshells will wipe my memory of this time and my thoughts will be full of summer. In the meantime, there is much of winter to enjoy.
Nick saw merlin again on Saturday, shortly after we went our separate ways. He phoned me with directions and I changed my plans to try and intercept the elusive falcon. As expected, it eluded me once more. But all was not in vain; in the field where I stood waiting hopefully, both red-legged and grey partridge appeared adding two to my patch year-list.
Hares and rabbits are obvious in the fields now. Fox, mink, badger and otter prints can be found in the wet mud along the river and the shrill battle cries of shrews confronting each other sound from the long grass. The roe deer can be tracked down with some regularity now and a chance encounter with stoat added gloss to a good show of mammals.
In the churchyard, the birds continue to come to the food I put out for them and are increasingly comfortable in my presence, even without the hide. Bright sunlight brings all the detail out in the feathers of small birds such as dunnock and marsh tit.
I paused watching the tops of scots pine early on Monday morning, hoping for siskin. Goldcrest and long-tailed tit were plentiful and as I stood looking up, I was aware of a movement at my elbow. Two long-tailed tits were busy lining their soft, perfect nest in the hedgerow, I fear too much in view to avoid the attention of hungry magpies.