I realise that many moments I have in the garden amount to bird-watching. I love sitting with a mug of tea, hands dirty, watching the birds watching me.

At this time of year, I am often accompanied by a robin or more timidly by a wren, flitting along the bottom of the hedges. How many other wild animals do I have the opportunity to observe so closely? Who else but gardeners are so regularly in such a good position to watch and share this glimpse of life?

A garden like this – full of seeds, fruits, berries and leaves plus unknowable numbers of insects, caterpillars and creepy crawlies – provides the perfect home for song and woodland birds of almost every type. These birds – finches, blackbirds, tits, thrushes, robins, sparrows, starlings and wrens inhabit the garden just as much as we do or the plants.

Owls toowhit to each other throughout the night and in summer, the swifts, swallows and house martins dip in and out of our sky. Because we have a moat we have ducks, moorhens, Canada geese and a pair of herons. We have crows, rooks, magpies and jays and loads of wood pigeons and doves.

We are privileged to have one of the most magnificent birds of prey here – the buzzard. Or as Hew affectionally calls him ‘Buzzy’. I heard it today – a distinct ‘keeow’ sound, sharp and clear in the cold air. I glanced upwards, craning my neck and shading my eyes with one hand and there, directly overhead was that distinct silhouette. And as Robbie (robin) burst into song close by me, I was reminded of the poem by Emily Dickenson ‘”Hope” is the thing with feathers’:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soil,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops – at all.

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard,
And sore must be the storm,
That could abash the little Bird,
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea,
Yet – never in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.