WE MIGHT be on the verge of winter but I heard a twinkling of bird song last week by the banks of the River Devon; a mellow and soft warbling tune that floated gently above the noise of the tumbling water.

It was a dipper’s song, such sweet music, and so nice to hear at a time when most other birds are relatively quiet.

Dippers are early nesters – they may be sitting on eggs by March – so it is not unusual on milder days in autumn and winter to hear the males singing as they set up their territories and start looking for a mate.

It is thought that they nest so early to ensure that the development of their youngsters coincides with a peak in aquatic invertebrates that occur in the river in spring and early summer.

The dipper is one of our most remarkable song birds because of its ability to dive and forage under water for caddis fly larvae and other invertebrates.

It is often said that the dipper can walk under water, but this is not really the case.

Instead, it uses its wings to exert downward thrust to counteract its natural buoyancy, enabling it to feast upon small creatures along the bottom.

Later that day in nearby woodland, I glimpsed a red squirrel and a grey squirrel up the same tree.

They ignored each other and seemed more interested in my presence below, no doubt waiting for me to move-on so that they could continue their search for seeds and nuts in peace.

Both greys and reds have thrived in this wood for as long as I can remember, and it is interesting how they happily co-exist here, whereas in many other parts of the country greys have displaced their red cousins.

Indeed, in this little piece of Wee County woodland, the reds are now more prevalent than ever and certainly outnumber the greys.

As ever, nature ebbs and flows. The reds might be on the ascendency for the moment, but only time will tell whether this is a long-term trend.