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Country diary: A pair a goldcrests arrives like tiny sunbeams| Environment

Country diary: A pair a goldcrests arrives like tiny sunbeams| Environment

WThe bones of hen winter have settled, and there is no sound that carries over the stones. Instead, the silence of the earth and frost gives way to a tiny, tinkling, goldcrest. It is the UK’s smallest bird. It flickers through bark in short bursts, just like the firecrest. It is about the same weight as a 20p piece and can be difficult to spot high up in pine and fir trees. But the light it emits is not something you will forget once you see its gold-striped head. The golden stream of light that floods the bark with its golden stream is caused by the yellow-orange crown.

Standing in a field bordered by pines, the ground is encrusted in a rusty ice. A pair of sparks fly in and out of my sight as the trees ignite. Even though their numbers are lower this winter, it is reassuring seeing them. I see one’s eye glow wild and then feel the tingling sensation as it moves its beak. Notes so high pitched that they are inaudible by others strum across the leaves with a high pitch. If sunlight could be heard, it might be this: I tilt my head back towards its golden pitch. For its contact call, the ears shift to higher frequencies. zree-zree-zree.

Because of their small size and lighter than the firecrest, goldcrests can use a lot of energy to keep warm on cold nights. This can be up to 20% of their total body weight. But the coldness goes away as the notes flow between us. The gold seems like it is finding its way into our bones. There is a warming current everywhere. Waves of sound splash on us. As I stand in this glow, the colour begins to return my cheeks. The birds continue their glistening advance by dropping yellow from branch to branch.

Their impact is enormous, despite their small size. I am held captive by the spectacle and cannot move. Their chime, which sounds through lit peals, harkens back to warmer days. Even now, their presence brings a sense of calm, a warmth that flows steadily through the trees. The earth, the leaves, and treetops begin to thaw and winter is temporarily withdrawn.

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