Country dairy: My paean to the hawthorn, feeder of many

Allendale, Northumberland: In my garden, this small but generous tree is a vital winter food source to redwings, goldcrests, squirrels and mice

The garden looks monochrome in a pale grey mist, the hawthorn outside my kitchen window two-dimensional. A lone blackbird is up early to feed on the berries strung like beads along spiny branches. I hold my breath as a shadowy hare lopes along, and I can just make out the bouncing white rumps of two roe deer. Otherwise, everything is still.

As the day warms, the berries colour to a dull red and more birds arrive. At one time I count a fluster of seven blackbirds, wings flapping, tails dipping as they teeter on twig ends to snatch with pincering beaks. On other days there have been winter visitors from Europe, redwings and fieldfares, or our native plump wood pigeons flashing white neck patches, drawn by the haws that are rich in antioxidants.

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