Walking up the lane after lunch today I was struck by the quiet. It is a still day; all the leaves are stripped from the trees; all that is left in the fields - apart from the odd one or two hardy heifers still out - is sheep and at this time of the year they make little or no noise.
In the bare hedgerows birds flit in and out - maybe a little flock of long-tailed tits working the bushes and twittering between themselves; maybe a cock blackbird sending out his alarm call at our approach. But of the rooks there is no sign today.
A cock pheasant, set up by Tess, flies off into the field with his alarm call. Then silence descends once more. Yesterday, as I drove out of the drive into the lane, fourteen cock pheasants in solemn procession stalked up the lane, followed by two or three hen followers. They stopped when they saw my car. I wasn't away long and as I stood preparing lunch in the kitchen window they stalked down the drive, picked away at debris under the bird table and then wandered off again.
Coming back from our walk Tess's tail began to wag and I knew that she had heard one of the farm cats sitting in the hedge waiting for our return. Sure enough, as we reached him, Blackie marched out in front of us, tail in the air, trying to trip me up, making sure I got the message that he wanted some milk. He knows I am a soft touch.
Our cotoneaster horizontalis is covered in small, beady red berries - they look to me just ripe for the picking. But - like the berries on the top of the holly bush - they will not go yet. They always seem to be left until there is a really cold spell, when they disappear overnight.