Why do we have such especial love for birds?
We love their brightness and bravery, the way they look after their babies; we are enchanted by watching young birds learning to fly.
As we sit in our warm houses in the winter we feel so sorry for these little creatures huddling in bushes, many of them bound to starve if we don't feed them.
I have loved birds all my life. Living in the country we were surrounded by birdsong and, very early on, my mother taught me to recognize their calls.
We watched the flocks of rooks returning to their rookery in the tall elm trees every evening at sunset; we hung peanuts and coconut halves in the lilac tree for the blue tits, we listened every spring for the first cuckoo returning from Africa and, in the fields, we stopped to listen to the nightingale's beautiful song.
One spring we had an extraordinary experience... we heard desperate bird calls in the garden and, running out, we found a young jackdaw, too young to feed itself or fly properly, standing on the grass and calling out to be fed. We quickly fetched some softened bread and popped it in his mouth - he became part of our family from that moment on.
As he learned to fly better, he slept in the cherry tree and flew into my mother's bedroom every morning when she opened the window.
He followed me around the house flapping gently alongside me. He sat on my shoulder when I was painting, he liked to peck my paintbrushes.
Sometimes we would find things were missing - little shiny objects like small silver spoons and earrings. One day I followed him and found him hiding them in a dressing table drawer in the spare bedroom!
His name was Corky and he stayed with us all the summer until he was strong enough to fly with the rooks.
I was very sad when he left us... I used to call to the rooks and sometimes he would leave them and dive down to land on my shoulder to say hello before flying back to join them again.
I shall never forget him...