The blackbird clears his throat and begins to sing his liquid, piping melodies from the top of the hawthorn tree. Next to me, the alarm clock shows 5.11am. This ebony thrush is the earliest riser of the bird world, each day saluting dawn as a prelude to the rest of the avian chorus.

Half an hour later, I watch our barn owl relentlessly course backwards and forwards across the unkempt grass field above the house, occasionally resting on a fence post before resuming her search for voles. By midday, brimstone butterflies, as sure a sign of spring as the cuckoo, are chasing each other across the garden. Spring is here. White violets, wood anemones and cowslips have appeared out of nowhere.

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The copse beyond the barn owl’s field is a carpet of wild garlic, which we pick to make pesto to go with the roast chicken for lunch. Further beyond the church, the rookery is a cacophony of caws. The spring wheat is tingeing the dark plough green; the hedges are already verdant.

It is, perhaps, the most wonderful time of year to be in the countryside-everything is so fresh and changing so fast. I wonder whether the swallows will arrive before the blackbird sings tomorrow?

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