It is good to be able to slip from the house at dawn and to enter a world that is finally still. The biting and bracing wind has passed and the air holds the carrying notes of song thrush and woodpigeon, both of which hint at the approaching spring. February is a dark month. Part of winter’s realm, she carries not the new year hope of January but instead sits belligerent and brooding. A troublesome month of storms, of rain and rising waters, of a wind that never drops. Will spring ever come?
These final days of the month, however, give hope and the calm that greets this dawn suggests a season soon to change. While I have seen these false hopes before, the hints of spring snuffed out by a weather system bringing chill winds from the north or squally rain from the west, the blooms of snowdrop, aconite and winter heliotrope offer a glimpse of the season to come. And there, among the brash that needs clearing from around the pond, I find a female brimstone. Her yellow-green sulphur proclaims life amid the blacks and dirty browns of rotting wood and leaf. Tenderly, I take her folded wings between thumb and forefinger and place her within the green ivy that coats the ancient wall. She will be safe and sheltered here, ready to stir with the first run of truly warm days.
The small tortoiseshells wintering in our unheated upstairs toilet have already shown their restlessness. On warmer mornings, when the sun’s rays push in through the small window, these wintering house guests can be found fluttering around the upstairs of the house. Come evening, when they are perched on curtain or net, I return them to ‘their’ room.
Droppings in the side passage, both on the flagstones and stuck to the wall, reveal that the brown long-eared bat has also been active. There are few moths coming to the lighted windows at night, so he may be better off remaining in whichever cavity he has chosen for the winter. Perhaps, as it is with me, these stirrings are a response to the changing weather, the lengthening of the days and the turning of the seasons.