Christmas Eve morning is layered with fog with a heavy dew dripping off the dead leaves. A solitary woodcock lifts from a muddy fallow. The wind is gone and the woodlands at Elsenham are alive with small birds: goldcrests chase through the low branches of a hazel laden with catkins, great tits call like bicycle pumps and blue tits move through the trees and ‘seep’ everywhere. A single marsh tit calls briefly and the nomadic flock of woodland birds moves off to leave the branches empty. In the distance, a song thrush sings; a nuthatch calls from a high oak and a great spotted woodpecker strikes up. Grey squirrels run down trees and across the leaf litter to recover stashed acorns. The sun lifts slowly and lights the woodland floor and the mid-winter world is briefly warmed.