'Gone away is the bluebird, here to stay is a new bird'. So runs a line of a popular Christmas song. 'Bluebirds', our swallows, are sadly not with us at Christmas as they are sunning themselves in reed beds around Cape town  until next April when they fly back to Britain. But I always think of them at this time of year.

The 'new bird' here to stay at least until February is the redwing, having flown from Northern Europe to spend winter with us.

Another well known rhyme mentions several birds including swimming swans; laying geese; French hens; turtle doves; calling birds and a partridge in a pear tree.

Turtle doves have suffered a severe decline in recent years and in any event, they are summer visitors and therefore not around at Christmas. It is a little early for geese to lay but Egyptian geese begin nesting in January.

Walk along Kingston towpath and there will be dozens of swans a' swimming!

Then of course we have our robins (pictured ) the  'calling birds , plentiful this year and very busy warbling wistfully by both day and night and featured in a whole range of cards and wrapping paper!

So, as bluebirds soak up the South African sunshine, we will shiver away the festive season with our redbreasts and redwings to keep us company and cheer us up in what may well be a winter wonderland?

Meanwhile, here's wishing all readers the compliments of the season.