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So, a nor-easterly wind brings with it a return of the dry cold that had temporarily moved away. This wind seems to cause more grumblings than any other prevailing direction. But in Brampton there are hidden benefits. Not only a crystal clear night sky but the return of that very rare commodity, silence.

Real silence is rarely encountered in Norfolk. There may be times in the depths of Thetford Forest . or as I found recently, in the late evening inside Norwich Cathedral, but in truth the all-pervading background hum of traffic or aircraft is always there. Or so it seems.

In Brampton the background hum of traffic sneaks over the railway line and invades the village form the south and west. The sound of tyres on the Aylsham bypass itself appears to get louder every year. But give us a good settled north- east airstream from the coast and we seem to get close to silence or at least to a human scale.

This morning the railway cutting was wreathed in silence. The shuffling of a rabbit broke the atmosphere, as did the flap of a Jay’s wings. Silence allows such concentration. The last shoot of the season brought a refreshing human scale to the sound-scape; calls and shouts and the barks of gundogs drifted on the breeze in much the same way as the noise of field workers must have done when the village was their world.

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Robin count

January 26, 2011

At daybreak this morning the weather was dull and a shower of cold rain made it feel damper than ever.

Whilst taking the dogs for their morning stroll I counted, in a totally unscientific way, the number of singing Robins within the southern part of the village. This part of the village extends to roughly fifteen houses. I reached a total of seven singing Robin’s within the 75 yard stretch from home to the railway line. This may not on the face of it seem a remarkable number, but no other species sang in these unsuitable weather conditions.

As I walked further on the railway line I only added two more to my tally in a half mile. I have no clearer evidence for the benefit of gardens in rural areas. More fences, hedges and boundaries means more Robins; it is unscientifically proven…

Waiting for spring

January 24, 2011

Around dawn this morning dawn, the planet Venus outshone the Moon in the southern sky over Brampton. The skies clouded over rapidly from the west ruining the spectacle.

Rooks set out in a straggling flock from Oxnead, the attendant Jackdaws seeming to burst with their usual excessive playfulness and noise. On the railway line Blackbirds loiter, not quite sure if spring is approaching. There is no song from them – only the Robins have the metal to start what they have finished and their challenging song continues.

In the cutting a small resident flock of Bullfinches communicate with wistful low calls. They congregate around the thorns waiting for succulent buds to form.

Return of birdsong

January 15, 2011

If it were possible to pinpoint the time and date that the birds start singing again, then I would say it was last Thursday morning (13th). On looking into the sodden garden before dawn I heard a Robin in full song and again when I parked my car in the centre of Norwich.

I suspect that in reality, bird song does not suddenly start but that after a period of rehearsal or sub-song, it gradually drifts into the real thing. Robins are notoriously territorial and it should come as no surprise that these street fighters are the first to shout.

There is a lifting of spirits which happens when hearing early Spring birdsong that very few other events can match. Music can create a similar feeling but I think it is the spontaneity of bird song which marks it out – bird song at this time of year creates such a contrast with the sheer dull dampness of January.

A couple of Sundays ago a similar thought occurred to me as two large skeins of Pink Footed Geese treated us to a mid-morning fly past. I looked up from my desk and threw open the roof-light to hear their wild hound like calls.

Wordle: Brampton, Norfolk - in Winter

January flocks

January 9, 2011

Clear skies and a starlit night are followed by four degrees of frost.  The Bure has returned to a reasonable flow after being starved of supply during the cold snap.

A morning stroll by the river merely serves to emphasise the flocking behaviour of birds at this time of year. Virtually everything we see is clustered in a flock; Woodpigeon, gulls, Starling, Jackdaws and Mallard. Small flights of Teal circle nervously and head off for quieter areas.  The only exception being a solitary Great Crested Grebe which was fishing near Burgh Mill; a Grebe in it’s dowdy Winter garb – just passing through.  I am happy to note the lack of Cormorants today – in my view an unwelcome guest in the area – their fishing puts such pressure on stocks.

Neil talks of Otter sightings. The signs are there, fishy spraint and what I like to imagine are mud slides into the river, but once again the short day length cuts down the chances of a proper sighting. Clumps of Blackthorn near the river provide ideal cover.