It's grey in Norfolk just now and we're at one of the days that is singled out as a low point of the year. Apparently yesterday, January 6th, is not only when we take the decorations down but also, somewhat soberingly, is statistically the day the most people die – if you read the Telegraph. Other statistics are available but when you put this alongside stories about what the most depressing day is - although how this can be identified is beyond me - you might be forgiven for not feeling upbeat just now.
But put your nose outside and whilst it's maybe a little early to be full of the joys of spring just listen and look. Even though we haven't had much winter the birds are out and being busy. Any feeder seems to be overflowing with small birds, all looking full of life. Blue tits, Great tits, Long-tailed tits - you name them - there they are. Robins are singing, Blackbirds are busy nest prospecting, Pigeons are back apparently doing what pigeons do mostly and the Rooks are starting to remind us they're there.
The lengthening of daylight is barely perceptible and yet the birds' biological clocks clearly know. Maybe if we didn't have our obsession with statistics, we too, might be out and about doing rather than contemplating darkness and cold.
Nearly 120 years ago at the start of the twentieth century, one of my favourite poets, Thomas Hardy, wrote one of my favourite poems, The Darkling Thrush, evoking the sound of a bird singing at just this point in the year, prompted apparently by