Today it really does feel like early Spring (a dangerous feeling this early in February). There is a light, cool breeze but there is wall-to-wall sunshine and the chaffinches are singing loudly as Tess and I walk down the Lane and round one of the hay meadows.
On the horizon there are plumes of greyish/white smoke both to the North and to the East. That means only one thing in February - they are burning the heather. On the grouse moors it is permissible to burn the heather back between January and March. Of course when it can be done depends entirely upon the weather and the last few days have been perfect - most of the snow has gone and the sun and the light breeze together have dried the heather nicely.
The heather is burned on a rotational basis, patches at a time over so many years, so that all the heather crop is kept young and healthy and none of it is allowed to become long and straggly and quite unsuitable for the grouse.
Once March arrives and the grouse start laying and breeding then all the burning must stop for the rest of the year. It is burnt in quite small squares so that it is unusual for the gamekeeper and his team to lose control of the burn (it has been known, but only rarely).
So that is another nail in the coffin of Winter and another sign that Spring and grouse-breeding is on its way. Hope my aconites on my header endorse this view for you.