The festive season is behind us, decorations are being taken down, Christmas street lights are extinguished and deciduous trees have finally shed all their leaves so the world looks a little drab in contrast to the past few bright sparkling weeks.

At least the shortest day is behind us and daylight hours increase imperceptibly from now on.

Daffodil bulbs are peeping above the soil in my garden and early flowering cut daffodils are in the shops. I always buy a vase or two shortly after Christmas to cheer the place up.

Very soon now snowdrops, once called snowpiercers, should appear. Nobody is quite sure if snowdrops are native or introduced centuries ago but now they are naturalised and a welcome sight in early spring. There are several varieties but I prefer the original small blooms so attractive to bees venturing out of hibernation.

Crows are roosting in last years nesting trees, woodpigeons chase each other round the garden in courtship mode as squirrels do the same and the fox mating season is at its peak.

Late in the afternoon of Christmas day I heard my first song thrush and blackbird in full song, an additional very welcome gift so spring is not too far off now whatever the winter has in store.