SNOWFALL always reveals a few secrets of night time excursions in our paddock. I am - usually - diligent in ensuring that the hens and guinea fowl are shut in their houses at nightfall.

Just occasionally, however, after a wine-filled evening, perhaps, I forget, and either have to stumble out in the dark armed with a torch, or persuade John to leave the warmth of the marital bed to ensure my poultry is safe from predators.

The last snow revealed that night time prowlers are not a figment of my imagination. They exist and their paw prints in the snow show they check out the security of the poultry houses on a regular basis.

One fox had even been brazen enough to show up in the daytime, skirting the perimeter of the back garden where my bird feeders are. These feeders have attracted pheasants pecking in the grass for any seeds.

I have noticed, however, that the number of pheasants visiting us has dramatically increased now that the shooting season has finished. They may be safe from the gun, but cock pheasant mortality seems to rise dramatically on our roads, especially when they abandon all thoughts of safety and pursue a likely looking hen directly in front of a speeding car.

Little birds had better beware, though, of another predator that has appeared on the scene and been attracted to our feeders. A buzzard. I was very grateful, however, to this killer when I saw him swoop down and pick up a rat that was also gorging itself on spilt grain. The bird feeder is sited next to a hedge so that the little birds can take cover if they feel in danger, but this rat has been brazenly stealing spilt grain in the open.

And I expect that it is not only foxes on the hunt for a meal early in the day when all is quiet or when dusk is falling. The owl box John built down by the pond has attracted either a new or a returning couple of barn owls.

We have noticed over the years that the owls are nesting earlier and earlier each year and this pair seem to already frequenting the box and the branches on the tree for getting to know each other rather well. I don’t expect they will have laid any eggs yet, but courtship seems to be progressing at a fast pace.

I sit in the gator near the tree and get an excellent vantage point as the gator’s cab is just a glass box really. Bit like the Popemobile. Without the bulletproof glass though.