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A solitary duck springs up from the pool above the mill. It’s long wings and markings characteristic of a Wigeon – normally a coastal bird of salt marsh, this one spent the night at Oxnead. Migration and movement are the themes now.

September skies

September 17, 2016

This week the House Martins abandoned our skies and headed for warmer climes. Recently they had gathered in wheeling flock of 40+ over the village – something akin to training flights for the late fledged young combined with a feeding frenzy. Air Temperatures had been high since Tuesday and the sky had become that deep shade of blue – cloudless and somewhat oppressive. Temperatures hit 32 degrees C (89 degrees Fahrenheit in old money) and activity on the ground had slowed. Then I noticed that they had gone – as ever to some unseen signal they had dissappeared. No stragglers apparent since then as I write this on a Saturday evening. The place is somewhat quiet without their movement and their cheerful calls.

September skies over Brampton

September 11, 2016

Buzzards have moved from rare to commonplace in Norfolk over the last twenty years or so. However common they are, I still thrill to the site of the family groups that soar on the village thermals. This morning (Sunday) we watch as a group of four – presumably tow adults and two young – slowly circle over the Common. We immediately assume, probably wrongly, that the individual which soars at a higher level, conveniently away from the others, is the male. The other three circle one another, calling constantly and occasionally making contact in some form of aerial game of tag. A feint and a roll, one of the pair turning upside down as they touch talons in mid air – some form of pretend exchange of food or some such. All through this their mewing calls drift down from a sky of almost Italianate blue.

Brampton Autumn – the Roe

September 4, 2016

The deep repetitive bark of the Roe Buck echoes around the wood. A sure sign that the rutting season is in full swing as the buck, high on testosterone, marches in wide circles and calls to those that would hear.  A somewhat primeval sound and one that has filled the valley for millennia.

A lone Swift flies over the garden this afternoon. I had become so used to the packs of Swifts cutting through the skies and round the chimney tops, that their absence brings a strange silence to the evenings. Autumn is approaching.

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.