A spare hour at dusk, on the last day of work before Christmas, and after a wet month I took the chance for a walk around my local patch. As often happens here, I saw virtually nothing for the first half of the walk: a few blackbirds chinking along the wooded drive, the rooks in the rookery by the car park.
And then, after dusk had fallen, when it was almost too dark to see, it all kicked off. First, two marsh harriers, floating low over the reedbed; then, no fewer than half a dozen great white egrets, each heading purposefully south to roost on the main Avalon Marshes. These elegant birds arrived here from France just a few years ago, enabled by the warming climate to extend their range northwards. Cetti’s warbler, another relatively recent arrival from continental Europe, wren and robin – the three birds that do sing during the winter – all uttered snatches of song. And as darkness fell, the jink and twist and turn of a male sparrowhawk, shooting across the path in front of me before disappearing into the trees.
It made me realise why, even on an unprepossessing day at the end of the year, it’s always worth taking a walk around my local patch.