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For me, the song of few birds symbolise the end of Winter and the impending arrival of Spring more than that of the Mistle Thrush. This morning the village was engulfed in that wild, wind blown song. The singer was perched high in the old Ash. The song seemed designed to float and carry on the breeze – a breeze which still carried the edge of Winter on it. As we approached the Thrush moved to one of the hill Oaks, his song did not pause but gathered in intensity as he settled on the utmost stag-headed branch. Around the base of the tree the Daffodil buds seemed to be on the verge of opening – drawn out by the Thrush’s call.

Chasing comets in Norfolk

January 23, 2015

A crystal clear Norfolk over the village gave us a chance to do a bit of comet spotting. Comet Lovejoy sails high in the southern evening sky. We returned to the best man-made viewing platform – the old railway embankment. For the last few nights the Comet has been climbing alongside the constellations Orion and Taurus, but it was really only last night that it escaped the polluting skyglow from Norwich. A short search revealed it as a greenish glowing smudge to the west of that jewel-like cluster of stars, the Pleiades or Seven-Sisters. As we watched the frost nipped our fingers, but we felt some connection, no matter how distant, with cold space.

The frost lasted well into the morning. As I walked the (well wrapped) whippets along the railway line, a female Sparrowhawk leapt from the hedge. She carried a victim gripped in her talons and made her way to the relative sanctuary of the Blackthorns. We followed slowly and a hundred yards further on, she once again took flight. In that characteristic ground hugging way of theirs, she powered along before turning sharply through a narrow hedge gap and was gone. The colder weather nearly always brings with it closer encounters with predators. Driven by hunger they discard their innate caution and grab every opportunity, no matter how close to us. Further on, a smaller tiercel (male) Sparrowhawk swiftly leaves its vantage point in Bill’s front garden Cherry Tree and heads for the marshes. It is not only the Blue Tits that bird tables attract.

17th January 2015

Gulls rise from their overnight roost on Oxnead’s banks. It is the first Saturday of 2015. What remains of the Paston’s palatial mansion – one grand wing, a small church, a cottage and a scattering of more recent architectural follies – are set amongst gardens and lawns that slope down to the river Bure. Beyond the boundaries of the Hall gardens, the meadows and woods present a more agrarian aspect, a farmed landscape rather than one of studied grandeur.

The river water has cleared and refined down after recent rain. Along the meadow banks the water has dropped a foot or two. A hidden Kingfisher calls from the feeder drain. As we walk the gulls billow and soar briefly before re-settling. At the mill sluice gates the water no longer bursts through with its earlier insistent force. The shelves and hollows of the river bed are once again visible in the mill pool around the storm debris of a weed-draped Alder branch.

The marsh in Winter

December 29, 2014

A rainbow briefly touches down on the Mill Marsh

A rainbow briefly touches down on the Mill Marsh

The marsh in midwinter

December 29, 2014

Midwinter on the marsh. This morning’s sharp frost, a low sun and the chill threat of showers sweeping in from the north, combine to colour and etch the landscape. A section of a rainbow briefly touches the Mill Marsh as a brief squall washes in. A Kestrel is mobbed by a Crow and I hear the high pitched call of an unseen Kingfisher. The river runs high in its banks and the pool below the sluice does not look at all inviting. The dogs and I are thankful for the frost which has made out progress much easier over the muddy well-used river path.

By the time we reach the Common, the sun has raised the air temperature as long as we keep out of the wind. Moles have pockmarked the drier sections of river bank, but the soke dykes are full and the drains are running. Just below the horizon sun picks out the colours of cottages.

Early December and the first real frost of the month. The grass on the Long Meadow white and brittle. A Kingfisher whirred away downstream in front of us along the Mermaid and, not finding a nearby wide ditch to it’s liking, it doubled back towards us calling loudly and flew up and over the railway embankment in search of quieter reaches. At this time of the year the rich orange breast of the bird glowed in contrast to the dazzling blue of its back.

All trees except the Oaks have lost their leaves. Around the Field Maples there are pools of yellow leaf-carpets. The Poplars have changed their note in the breeze, now the branches emit a low moan and no longer the sibilant whisper of the leafy early autumn. Strangely, some of the Oak leaves are still quite green and have yet to succumb to the ochre and orange of the discard.

The finches, mostly Linnets and goldfinches, have gathered in flocks along the ditch side Alders. Their contact calls drift on the breeze.

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