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One warm blast if southerly air – a so called Spanish Plume – and the summer visitors start to arrive. On Saturday morning (11th April) a single Swallow hawked and chattered its way around the Long Meadow, along the River Mermaid and the barn roofs of Brampton Hall. This evening (Tuesday) a Blackcap sang from deep within the Blackthorn bank thus adding a bit of  variety in song to its Warbler relative, the Chiffchaff, which was an earlier arrival.

Owls on Maundy Thursday

April 4, 2015

On the evening of Maundy Thursday Oxnead was quiet. It was bright and slightly chilly Spring evening. A single Roedeer nibbled at growing reed tips on the Drying Ground. This area is part of the Common which was, at one time strung with lines for drying washing and now colonised by reeds, Flag Irises and willow. A little corner that had been ignored by the drainage contractors.

A few steps further and we watched a very white Barn Owl slowly survey the ditches as she quartered the ground. The river was reflective and slow flowing. Disturbed only by a territorial Mute Swan – perhaps defending a hidden nest nearby. A second hunting Barn Owl, this time a dusky fawn colouration, watched us as we passed from a fence-post perch. 

There is a small footbridge over the little River Mermaid where is joins the Bure. It is a good place to stop and to appreciate the silence of the Bure and the grazing marshes. As we watched some duck winnowed in and a solitary Snipe called as it purposefully made its way somewhere or other. Then the pace changed. As if rowing through the air, a Short Eared Owl appeared. A faster and more effortless flight than that of Barn Owl. Its long wings alternately fixed in a short  glide, then swimming through the air, as is flew in wide arcs over the marsh. Flying at around six feet off the ground and occasionally braking, twisting and pouncing in a shallow cork screw when something caught its eye. As it passed us we caught a glimpse of those intent yellowy-orange eyes set in a flat facial disc. It was aware of our presence but carried on hunting. Presumably refuelling en route to the moor or tundra breeding ground.

We returned home exhilarated by the 

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

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