Winter may still be with us, but the small birds which have been around since the autumn - and they've had a pretty torrid time of it - are suddenly appearing in their full mating finery. We have half-a-dozen resident yellowhammers who have been very tolerant of each, but now the males are chasing each other away from the bird food.
When a recent visitor saw one of these magnificent cock yellowhammers, he exclaimed - "It's a budgerigar!"
The chaffinches have, as usual, survived winter better than any other species. They're pushy, inquisitive, very tolerant of each other, social, and greedy. They're a pest, but I can't help liking them - particularly now that, having come through the winter, they too are turning out in their very best finery.
We were woken yesterday morning by a fluttering outside the bedroom window - to see a pied wagtail sitting on the roof of the conservatory. The first of the wagtail returnees were back with us a few weeks ago, but now there are many more of them. They're a little ungainly in the blustery winds we're having, which catch them under the tail-feathers and bowl them over.
Having been very sadly siskin-less all winter, we saw the first one last Sunday, but he's back again, looking even smarter, and gorging himself on peanuts - and he's been joined by a female.
As with the siskins, we've hardly seen a greenfinch since least summer, so it was very good to see this one on the feeders yesterday morning. I think it's a female - the lighter yellow-green stripe on the wing is narrower on females than males. Whatever the sex, they always look very fierce - and they are, chasing all the other birds away when they arrive for a meal.