There’s more birdsong in the pinewoods today. Great spotted woodpeckers have been drumming since the beginning of the year, squadrons of redpolls are still drifting from birch to birch, and interspersing coal and blue tit song is the beautiful tinkle of cresties. I’m always surprised, if I’ve been away, how very resolutely green the pinewoods remain throughout the winter. Though the birches and alders gain a beautiful maroon hue in these months, the pines, like the junipers, hold on to their colour. Despite the gale-force winds, the paler green of lichens still clings on to branches, though more are scattered along the rusty pine‑needle-strewn paths now.

Despite it being just February, I’m heartened to see signs of another spring green starting to emerge. Beautifully soft, clover-like leaves of wood sorrel are beginning to peek up from the undergrowth. This delicate plant that used to be known as cuckoo sorrel or cuckoo’s mea was, like other plants, so named because its flowers are often associated with the return of the cuckoo. Another story tells us that the cuckoo got its call after eating this plant. I know that I’ll be waiting a wee while still before these beautiful flowers sprinkle these woodlands, but their leaves are symbolic of lighter days to come.

An unfamiliar sound distracts me, a strange birdcall that I can’t quite distinguish, so I head off in its direction, till eventually I find its source – a tree that’s been blown over and is resting precariously against the forks of the branches of another tree. The strange high‑pitched squeaks are sometimes bird-like, sometimes fiddle-like, and caused by the friction between trunk and branch with each strong gust of wind. A few more trees are lying at similar angles and others have snapped midway or fallen completely.

Walking home, I pass a huge Scots pine that’s been completely felled. I jump into the hole where it once stood and its root plate, now vertical, must be 10 feet high. I know that this will provide a dust bath for the capercaillies that bide in these woods, and that as these fallen trees decay, they’ll create new habitats, continuing to provide for the forest around them, and the new life that springtime will bring.
Country diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary

Winter pines in the Abernethy Forest, Scotland. Photograph: Amanda Thomson


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