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The familiar flight silhouette. An insistent call, loud and chattering, high up around the upper branches of a swaying Poplar, following by an effortless scything flight. The Summer-visiting Hobby Falcon was back. In this case, two of them – the first the agile flier, the second (presumably the female) slightly shy, keeping the branches between it and us as we gazed up. The call changed to the more familiar repetitive falcon kee-kee-kee-kee.. as the male completed an arc, in sight then out of sight, before returning along the far side of the trees, his wings at first spread in a fast approval and then folded in a shallow dive towards his mate. To us this seemed like the start of Summer. To them, no doubt, the start of the serious business of the breeding season.

Not quite a Nightingale. This song was full throated, but without the seemingly endless variety of its relation; this was the song of the Blackcap. This morning we had the chance to stop and watch for a few minutes. The male was perched in full view on a Hawthorn. They usually sing from a perch with a bit more cover, throwing their strong voices and using the natural echoing acoustic of the scrub. But this morning he had adopted an more exposed perch. From where we stood some 10 yards away, the full throated effort and its resultant volume was apparent. Each verse seemingly ending with the same short phrase tooey-tooey-tooey-tooo, then a pause, before embarking on another convoluted tune. Oblivious to us he continued until we slowly walked on at which point he briefly retired deeper into the scrub, before resuming at our passing.

Cuckoos are mysterious. It is in their nature. Since the first Brampton Cuckoo arrived and started calling on Easter Sunday, there has been a suspicious silence. In fact it was only very early this morning that I heard another Cuckoo calling and since then, nothing.

This is however, so often the case. I am not convinced that it is purely down to a decline in Cuckoo numbers. In most years we still have a population. It may be that as a species they travel over large distances in order to find a mate and until this is completed they don’t settle – this does seem to be borne out by radio tracking data published by the British Trust for Ornithology. On their records Cuckoos travel widely before they home into the areas from which they originated (or so it seems).

In any event, I watch, listen and wait.

The return of Swifts to the village sky makes this a red letter day. News of their reappearance elsewhere in England was announced all over Twitter yesterday – I can’t quite fathom out why Gloucestershire should see them before we do in Norfolk, but that was how it appeared. Brampton Swifts waited until Ascencion day.

Walking back from the polling station, having been notified by Bill, there they were a circling group of eight Swifts over the village houses. Their sharp calls cutting through the air. It was noticeable that there was a hatch of flies about at ground level, so no doubt their arrival was somehow timed. From experience they will circle no gather for a few days before starting to return to roof eve nest sites. Sadly these sites have become fewer over the years as cottage roofs are repaired and gaps sealed up – the Swifts are barred from their age old sites. There is a real need for more Swift nest boxes to be constructed and installed.

 

The Cuckoo is slightly early this year; announcing his presence with a circuit of the village at 5.15 this morning. In the clear, slightly chilly morning air his call was clear and close – the closer they are, the more the syllables separate. His aerial tour continued to the river, calling all the way.

Brampton Spring: mimic

April 17, 2016

For some days now we have been scanning the skies for the early morning Buzzard whose call drifts across the village. The strange thing being that Buzzards are not normally early risers. The tend to wait for the warmer air which makes their thermal-borne soaring survey so much easier. This one seemed to be an early bird. Then it became clear. The Buzzard in the copse, in which the trees look too spindly to support a bird of any size, was not a Buzzard at all. The call was that of a mimic; a Jay, which seemed to be chortling quietly to itself as it hopped away – happy to have caused a little confusion in the garden.

Brampton Spring: chorus

April 17, 2016

The dawn chorus is reaching a new intensity. The song of the natives, such as the Robin and the Wren, is being strengthened by the complex warblings of newly arrived summer visitors. Setting aside the monotony of the Chiffchaff’s two-note, the chorus has been expanded by other members of the Warbler clan. Blackcaps and Garden Warblers can now be be heard – they seem to have upped the general volume with their full-throated tunes. They seem to be making themselves at home in the shrubby wildernesses of copses and marshy areas which are scattered through the parish. We wait for the Cuckoo.

As for the trees, the Oaks buds are starting to burst, many Sycamores are out, the Hawthorns are a rich green. The Ashes are yet to show. The Blackthorns, or those which have survived the scorched earth policy of the over zealous clearance of the Bure Valley Railway, are adorned with snow fresh blossom.

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