Column: Birds hunker down as wild and windy weather returns

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As I type this on Saturday morning it is a truly foul day – cold, with a bitter east wind and stinging rain.

It is barely light, and the garden is a sorry, sodden place.

Earlier on there was a dusting of snow for the first time this year and as I came down for breakfast a couple of wood pigeons were stalking around the crazy paving hoping some bird seed might still remain.

I opened the door and chucked out a cup of fresh seed for them, but they disappeared in fright and the beneficiaries were a group of sparrows.

The fresh coconut feeder was fleetingly visited by a couple of blue tits, but mostly the garden is empty of any visible life – the birds are hunkered down somewhere, sheltering from the worst of the weather and conserving energy.

However, there are some small signs of better things to come. I have several terracotta pots full of crocus and tulip bulbs and some of them have tiny shoots just visible.

Also, the hellebores are in bud and will soon brighten up a particularly dull part of the garden – that unlovely area where the bins are. I always mean to increase my stock of hellebores – I just have a pure white one and one with purple speckles on the petals.

They tend to hang their flowers down, hiding their glory, but anything that is prepared to flower in winter is a welcome sight.

I shall watch for the first bud to open in the next few weeks as I make trips to and from the bins!