At this time of year, I find myself looking for any small sign that winter is loosening its grip - the slightest hint that spring is on its way.
As darkness fell around 5 o'clock this afternoon, a blackbird was singing hesitantly from the birch tree in our back garden. I paused to listen and also picked up the distant sound of a song thrush in full flow.
Earlier in the week I received an email from my friend John, who also took part in the public transport Bigby:
"I had a great year... it pushed me to get out more and try new places and investigate new train and bus routes. I was rather pleased with my total of 187, although at one point I had hopes of reaching 200. King Eider, Glossy Ibis, Red-footed Falcon, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler were my highlights."
As far as I know, John's Bigby species tally is the highest achieved by a UK-based birder.