In the dark of the night, a tawny owl called to the stars from the oak by the rife; that hoot that we all recognise as the call of an owl, mixed with squarks and 'kee-ick's.
He wasn't alone in his night's vigil.
The robin sang by the light of the street-lamps and as they switched off and the sun took their place, other birds joined the morning chorus.
Sparrows chirruped from the eaves, living up to their a cheeky-chappy reputation; have you ever noticed how they seem eternally cheerful? Wish I knew their secret! A wren rattled from deep inside it's bramble-bush.
The wood pigeons were the next to arrive, appearing from across the pale clouded sky and taking their positions in the tops of the ash trees, coo-ing and woo-ing as if it were spring!
From somewhere within the branches below the pigeons came a sharp drumming. It came again and another answered it in a different tone. These are great spotted woodpeckers declaring their territory. They drum hard and repetitively with their beaks on the branches or trunks of trees, a call that travels through the woodland and shows their strength and fitness to rivals and potential mates. This year I heard the woodpeckers drumming for the first time on Tuesday (16th December), which is much earlier than usual as it is usually January before I hear them here first, perhaps it is the mild weather we have been having.
The great spotted's weren't the only woodpecker about this morning. A green woodpecker, or 'yaffle' was shouting the laughing call that gives the bird its alternative name. These woodpeckers feed on ants, and often suffer in cold winters when the ground freezes hard and they cannot access their favourite food. I hope this year is kinder to this stunning bird of brightest green and yellow with a smart red cap.
Can you believe that this whole list of birds were heard or seen from my home if the first few hours of the morning?
There are still a few berries on the holly, but the blackbirds are making short work of them, and will be joined no doubt by the flock of thrushes that passed overhead near the pub. Against the grey clouds they were fairly camouflaged, and I had neglected to bring my binoculars, but a 'seep' call led me to guess that there were at least a few redwings amongst their number.
The weather forecast is set fine for this week, and as we pass the winter solstice tonight, Christmas is only a few days away.
I wonder what seasonal surprises will turn up this week?
I did catch sight of a flock of finches in the field where the path I take joins Pitsham Lane. Perhaps I will return tomorrow or in the next few days, and take a closer look if they are still around.
Bird List: tawny owl, robin, wood pigeon, sparrow, wren, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, rook, jackdaw, pheasant, blackbird, starling, redwing. Total: 13 species