Country mouse on the cusp of winter

In the past week, The Queen at Windsor, the Italian Ambassador, Hoare’s Bank, David Linley and, of course, Harry Potter have all kept me on different days and evenings from seeing much of the countryside. Arriving home in the small hours, the tawny owls twit and twoo to each other, but everything else seems asleep. Even the terriers barely look up from their newfound paradise next to the Aga.

The early mornings are different, a party of long-tailed tits flitters through the top of an apple tree beside the bedroom window, robins are singing and doing murderous battle for territory, and, down by the stream, a grey heron with its livid face searches for frogs. These are busy days and not just for editors.

February is the time of courtship, but November is all about survival, food and territory before winter’s grip takes hold. The hedgehogs are already hibernating and, although badgers don’t in the true sense, they become so slow and lazy, they rarely leave their sets. The migrations of geese, swallows and the rest are over. Everything is where it wants to be. We are on the cusp of winter.