Country mouse on coping with the cold

A blackbird has been picking the grapes that hang from a huge vine on the front of the house. It looked easy pickings, but, by the morning after the first snow, she lay dead on the flagstones. In the cold weather, the birdfeeders are dominated by aggressive nuthatches, but, as they are extremely messy eaters, there is plenty scattered on the ground for the coal tits, robins and blue tits to pick up.

Suddenly, a sparrowhawk flicks past, but the other blackbirds have seen him and everything tumbles to find cover on their alarm call. But fear cannot last long, starvation will kill more in the next few hours than the sparrowhawk will manage in a year, and soon the squabbles resume at the bird table.

The cold makes animals more aggressive and humans friendlier. As the birds and the beasts are fighting tooth and nail for survival, a flutter of snow brings out the best of humankind. People who have sat in the same carriage, on the same train, for months suddenly talk to each other for the first time; in the villages people fetch things, check on neighbours and generally enjoy each other’s company. It’s all a bit of a wonder.