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Twelfth night seems hardly a jot behind us and we have seen the sickle of frost threatening anything we forgot to secure in our greenhouses as we stuttered through the first wintery days of 2021. And how easy to look well beyond the present to the verdant days of spring when nature awakes to enthral us.

However, we do not have to wait that long to see the signs of a new season. Even though we are still getting accustomed to the winter thrushes visiting our gardens and to clearing the frost off our windscreens, nature is already hurling itself into the next breeding season with gusto. Even before the festive fireworks had fizzled out, Robins and Song Thrushes will have been in song, inviting their intendeds into their thrall. Rooks will already be back at the building sites squabbling over each other’s pile of sticks and twigs to get their eggs in place by end of next month, and our local Ravens will also be spring cleaning their regular nest. Another potential February layer is the Grey Heron and they too can be seen on their nest sites in full preparation in this early part of January. Even more strikingly, Egyptian Geese may already have eggs ready to hatch, the earliest local fledglings noted being New Years Day at Little Marlow Lake a while back.

Woodpigeons and Collared Doves have already been recorded carrying nest material this first week of ’21, and Red Kites have been noted back at their existing structures used last year. And many will already have heard the familiar ‘tu-whit-tu-woo’ of the Tawny Owl, preparing for its egg-laying session of early March. (Of course, if you have heard ‘tu-whit-tu-woo’ it is not a Tawny Owl; it is two Tawny Owls, the male responding immediately to the females ‘tu-whit’).

And if it is not the hooting love song of the owl, it might be the blood-curdling howls of a vixen that wakens you with a shudder – as the mating season for the Fox gets underway before month one bids us farewell. So there is no need to await the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch at the end of this month, or the weekly BTO Garden Bird scheme which commences shortly afterwards (of which more later) – we can be out and about enjoying the first signs of another breeding season right now!

Brian Clews

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