It has been a fairly mild winter so far, we've had only half a dozen nights of mild frost and a dusting of light snow overnight at the beginning of this week.
The birds have started singing heartily each morning and, for the past week, there has been a new voice in the morning choir. I thought it was a songthrush and I spotted one in the garden, which confirmed my theory.
On Sunday morning, Max (who was over for the weekend with Inna) and I stood on the back and we spotted two thrushes singing loudly to each other (or to some unseen female thrushes). They were sitting at the tops of trees in our garden and the bungalow called Gayport on the Causeway.
Max is quite good at recognising birdsong and he says songthrushes are easy to identify by their complex and beautiful song, which is characterised by repeated phrases. Normally the bird repeats each phrase three times (sometimes two) and then goes on to the next. It's really obvious when it's pointed out.
I also know how to tell a collared dove from a woodpigeon by its call. Collared doves coo in three syllables (U-ni-ted like a football fan), while woodpigeons split their coos into five - who, who, who - who, who.
I have started doing the British Trust for Ornithology's garden birdwatch. Unlike the RSPB's survey, which is once a year, the BTO does it weekly and you record all the birds you see (with their maximum number at any one time) across a week.
Jays are now regular visitors to the garden. They are here most days - sometimes one, sometimes two - and they are beautiful birds. I've also got half a dozen jackdaws who arrive most mornings to raid the peanuts. This week, I also caught a glimpse of the sparrowhawk in the garden again. I think he'd pounced on something on the lawn. I don't know if he caught it, I saw him making his getaway, but not whether he had some poor blue tit in his talons.
One of the best things this year has been watching the birds in the bird-bath. I got this for Christmas and placed it along the big border, so it could be seen from both the kitchen window and the lounge. It's amazed me how much it is used and with such gusto.There were five sparrows splashing in it one day, another day there was a mass of spray coming from a tiny blue tit and this morning a big fat female blackbird was in their doing her ablutions. I have to top it up every morning and on the few frosty mornings have made sure I thaw the ice with some warm water.