Even by my usual standards it is early; the combination of an elderly dog and a warm and stuffy night sees me up and about not long after four. Outside, in the garden, the air is delightfully cool and the town sits under a stillness that, for now, seems to suggest that its ownership rests with me. The dawn chorus of earlier in the year has subsided and it is the hypnotically drowsy calls of woodpigeons that echo across the dawn, disturbed only by the occasional chaffinch or dunnock.
The male from our resident pair of blackbirds sits in silhouette on the fence, a stroke of orange bill on an otherwise flat canvas. His plumage shows the signs of a long breeding season and the efforts of raising more than one brood of chicks. Scruffy in his appearance, it will not be long until the annual moult and the replacement of rough and battered feathers. The young from the latest breeding attempt are somewhere in the garden and they will soon start to call for food with the nagging persistence of hungry children which, after all, is what they are. Other young birds will soon arrive; streaky-plumaged young greenfinches in the company of their parents will come to take sunflower hearts from the hanging feeders and yellow-cheeked blue and great tits will join them to take advantage of this reliable food source.
All of a sudden there is a brief moment of commotion as the jackdaws arrive. This gang of a dozen or so avian ruffians squabbles over scraps of food and tufts of discarded dog hair. For these birds the breeding season continues and there are hungry young to feed and nesting attempts to be completed. The jackdaws are always an early visitor, a pattern repeated in many other gardens across the county, and they only rarely visit the garden later in the day. It is a little too early for many insects to be on the wing. Once the sun makes her appearance and stirs the borders with her warmth, the bumblebees and hoverflies will emerge to jostle around the blooms. It is going to be another warm day but for now I can enjoy the cool stillness of dawn.