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Thaw

December 30, 2010

A flight of Wigeon are temporary winter visitors to the island.  Their plaintive whistling calls are the clearest signs of their presence – but the bold white wing markings on the males are confirmation enough.  They flock in their thousands along the marshy Norfolk coast or along the lower reaches of the Yare, but this was nothing but a small foraging party. The thaw has set in has perhaps there are early pickings for wild duck along the Bure.

The thaw has also released the scent of the fox from it’s frozen state. There are many hot spots which are seemingly important in the regular route. We will have to wait for the frosty starlit nights in order to listen to her territorial screams – such sounds do not carry in the wet misty and damp conditions which prevail.

Winter kill

December 25, 2010

A female Sparrowhawk (or Spar) has taken up residency in the cutting. She has been there for several days. Presumably because her favoured prey species, various finches, are gathered along the berry- rich thickets which predominate along this stretch.

I say female because of its size, the male (or Musket) would be considerably smaller. This morning she effortlessly shook off the unwanted attentions of a mobbing Carrion crow before flashing through the hedgeline and disappearing. Yesterday she was glimpsed as she shot away with a rapid climbing flight from a perch on a fencepost. The day before she had left the clear signs of one of her victims in the footpath – a trademark circle of blood and feathers and a visible clawed footprint.

An Arctic walk in Brampton

December 18, 2010

Temperatures  plunged to -14 C last night – fine snow fell which was more reminiscent of Arctic Circle snow than the normal wet stuff that we usually receive.  

It is still below -10 C as we take the dogs out. During the morning walk we  put up many Snipe as well as their larger cousins, Woodcock. The arrival or “fall” of Woodcock in Winter usually coincides with tougher weather conditions – presumably they are driven across the North sea from Scandinavia or Holland. A few remain in the UK for the Summer, but three or four flying out of the copse in Brampton is really only a Winter event. Snipe are here in dozens if not more and there peculiar croaky alarm call is the only sound over the Common.

The fox has left his familiar trail and diversions and the sign of a visit to the river for a quick drink are apparent.  We look for signs of Otter with no result. A Weasel has left a visible trail in the more rabbit areas of the railway line. Hungry Redwings and Bullfinches have abandoned their shy behaviour and now concentrate on their search for food. The apples which remain on a tree in the cutting are as hard as billiard balls – we pick a few and leave them on the ground in the hope that the Thrushes can get at them when they thaw.

Snow fox

December 5, 2010

Snow adds the extra dimension of tracking to the wildlife watcher’s armoury. Brampton is well served with linear routes – the railway line and the river , for example. It is often only the addition of a blank covering of snow that the daily routine of wild creatures becomes evident. In the garden, the thorough meanderings of the hens can be clearly seen. There are very few corners of the garden that go unvisited during the day.

Outside the garden, the routes of the fox are clear. Along the river these are complete with minor detours, pauses and circuits. Scent markings are visible and for once we can see what sets the dogs off in a frenzy of hunting. It is usually not until the clear frozen nights in January that the fox’s calls add to the silent evidence of the regular route. That is, unless you confine your experience on the fox to television dramas – on the TV the Vixen’s screams can be heard at any time of the year, in Brampton they are silent until the depths of Winter.