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Brampton: on the trail

February 17, 2021

To walk through the parish over freshly fallen snow is such a pleasurable experience. Not only does the snow heighten one’s appreciation of the brightened and pristine landscape, but it also provides an insight into the daily lives and habits of the wildlife around us. Tracks and trails provide the evidence of the daily comings and goings which may otherwise go relatively unnoticed. The dog fox whose sharp calls punctuated the frost-hardened night, which left a clearly recognisable chain of prints – like so many dots on a crisp-white page. The deer – Roe and Muntjac – paying no real attention to boundaries, their routes criss-cross the footpaths with a destinations which we can only guess at.

It is the Otters which intrigue me most of all. The Bure has been running high and cold – off-putting to all except the Otters, the wildfowl and the hardiest of wild-water swimmers. But the snowy banks are punctuated with their trails – a brief visit to one place, a short trail in land and out again – all showing their characteristic footprints and the make of their tails. Occasionally the discarded claw of a Crayfish as a leftover from a brief meal. Last week we watched one of the otters as it dashed across pasture from the river to the clear-running ditch which runs in parallel, much to the annoyance of a swan who happened to be on the chosen route.

Having left too long a gap – over two years have elapsed since my last post on this site – I will try to make amends. As I write, I can look up to see a garden full of finches. The visiting flock of Bramblings, which varies in number from a dozen to a score of birds, has been a daily sight, along with the regular Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Chaffinches. The snow is dirty and on the verge of a thaw. The various feeders of Niger and sunflower seed, peanuts and a wheat-based mix have become a hub for the hard-pressed bird population. Outside the garden two neighbouring farms have established almost twenty acres of winter bird food crops and these have harboured large flocks of Linnet and Yellowhammers; their flocks often of 40-80 strong, perhaps more. If ever I wanted to demonstrate the value of supplementary feeding, this is the place and the time.

Brampton Winter – flocks

January 27, 2019

The frosts of mid to late January changed the habits of the parish wildlife.  The most marked change being the flocking of the birds. The Woodpigeons gather into gangs, but most notiecable of all are the large flocks of finches. The finch flocks – consisting mainly of Chaffinchs, Greenfinches, Bramblings, Goldfinches and Linnets – gravitate to the fields planted for this very purpose at the south end of the village. The farm’s conservation scheme, being ‘Wild Bird Cover’ consists of a special mix of seed-bearing plants, and it is working. On a fine clear Saturday morning I counted 60 in one flock perched atop the hedgerow trees whilst another, half as big, wheeled round above.   A good example of successful farm-based conservation.

Frosty clear nights echo with the calls of courting foxes. One Erving this week a dog fox called as it ran done the village street making all the dogs jump from their slumber.

The hedgerow berries, such as Hawthorn,  have been bountiful this year. But The winter thrushes, the Redwings and Fieldfares, wait until the sharpest frosts of December have passed before they feed upon them. This morning, the 16th December, was the key date for this year’s feast. Numerous scattered flocks roll and flutter from bush to bush ahead of us as we walk along the old railway line. Their calls, a strange mixed chorus of the Fieldfares’ ‘chock-chook’ calls and their Redwings’ weaker ‘seeep’, surround us during their frenzy of feeding.

By the next week, the Hawthorns are stripped. All but the outermost berries  have been taken.