Faces of February

A month of extremes; a mild start followed by a week of freezing air from the north east and snow-frozen ground that disappears as quickly as it arrives and is quickly forgotten as the land is brought alive by spring-like temperatures and the first butterflies are on the wing. In the freeze, the small birds come to the feeders. The local kestrel is desperate enough to pounce with great speed and agility on a dunnock in the backyard, a quick nip in the back of the head and then back up into the tall cherry tree. She keeps a routine of regular perches on trees and a series of roadside telegraph poles, and frequently drops onto unknown prey in the winter wheat field. We hear a little owl before dawn but never a sighting. The great winter wheat field also hosts small flocks of redwings and occasional fieldfares as well as black-headed and common gulls all working the ground for earthworms. Once, back in December a distant merlin dashes low across the field. In the spring sunshine, sparrows chatter from the hedge, a skylark briefly sings from somewhere and along the lane the cherry plum trees are in flower and light up the hedgerows.

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