Country diary: when life becomes a matter of eat or freeze

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Abbeydale, Sheffield: Smaller birds are busy despite the snow, helping themselves to the emergency supplies hanging from the cherry tree

Snow began falling as I looked from my window, and “the room”, as the Irish poet Louis MacNeice put it, “was suddenly rich”. So I turned my chair to watch this treasure accumulate. Within half an hour, flakes were weighting the twigs and the sodden earth became first blurry and then blanketed from view. Still it came, the “spawning snow”, hour after hour, the world’s hum first dampened and then lost in the airy spaces of the brilliant white.

The birds divided, large and small. A magpie sheltered in the dead alder; the oaks fringing my skyline quickly filled with wood pigeons, their heads pulled into their shoulders and their feathers rounding out their bodies, giving the almost comical impression of burly policemen. The smaller birds, without the fat reserves for surveillance, were busy despite the snow, helping themselves to the emergency relief I’d hung from the cherry tree outside my window.

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