Migrants are returning, and although I've yet to spot any large raptors, yesterday I heard something at the opposite end of the size scale: the distinctive zeet...zeet...zeet of my first fan-tailed warbler of the year. Such tiny birds, very hard to spot in their undulating flight.
After a wet spell a week or so ago, followed by sunshine and temperatures nudging up to 20 degrees C in our garden, lizards, and even one or two ants, have started appearing, and everything is growing like crazy. So today I made a start tidying it up for the spring. One or two plants have suffered after what I first thought were relatively mild frosts a while ago. Among these, our lemon tree. It seems to me that whenever we have a particularly good crop on the way, they get frosted before they're ripe enough to pick, and then they rot on the tree. Black lemons are not a good look. Enough may have survived for gin and tonics, however!
It was also time to check along the base of the ivy-covered wire fence that runs along the back of the garden - for signs of fresh escape routes my dog might be in the process of creating. Shrubs obscure one stretch, so it's a case of scrawming under, over, and through a tangle of twigs and fronds and prickly things. Soil here is very thin and poor, so I've let it run wild.
Sure enough, at the base of the wire, between self-seeded bay, pyracantha, eleagnus and palms, I glimpsed the beginnings of a hole. Impossible for me to reach without taking a machete to the jungle. But as I crouched down to dog height and peered, I realised that my darling boy hadn't been trying to tunnel out. He had half uncovered a hibernating hedgehog. Normally, the discovery of a resident wild animal would delight me - but my dog is a determined hunter, and I just hope that his paws and nose have been pricked enough to put him off trying again.
The exposed spines of the hedgehog looked unharmed. Although I couldn't see any sign of breathing, when I managed to toss dead leaves back over it, it flinched, which I took to be a good sign. I've also now attempted to block the dog's access with a wedged, broken flowerpot. But he is cunning and talented, so I shall have to keep watch.
With further frosts unlikely now, I'm hoping Hoggy will wake up (if he hasn't been rudely awoken already) and move on to somewhere safer.