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Sea Pie

April 29, 2011

As the sugar beet grow in the rows on the Town Field it’s regular occupants are a pair of Oystercatchers. This wading bird with it’s smart black and white plumage and red bill generally favours the tide line along the shore, but the river valley seems to be a favoured habitat.

As I write one of the pair flies over the garden with a strident territorial call. It is possible that the filed is purely a resting area but a nest is not out of the question. Sugar Beet has it’s ancestral origins in a wild Sea Beet which in some ways contributes to it’s resilience in lighter soils of North Norfolk. The Oystercatcher may feel as at home amongst the cultivated variety as it might alongside it’s wild beet relatives.

Dry verges

April 29, 2011

Walking up through the village last night, it was clearly evident that the lack of rain is having an impact. The last decent shower was on the 26th March – nothing of any note for over a month.

The warm Easter period has propelled the Cow Parsley into rapid growth and the Cuckoo Pint into flower. Both species are now showing signs of stress – roadside banks in this area have few moisture retentive qualities, the soil type is a sandy loam, so there are no real reserves to call upon.

Waiting for the Cuckoo

April 24, 2011

St George’s day, 23rd April, came and went without the expected call of the Cuckoo. Alex and I thought we heard a single call last Tuesday evening (19th April), but we heard no follow-up call to prove it to ourselves – at best it may have been one of those birds heading for a more northerly home.

Upon checking my records I discovered that their non-arrival was not unusual and in fact the Brampton Cuckoo has generally started calling nearly a week later.  The local eighteenth century phenologist (or recorder of Indications of Spring), Robert Marsham from Stratton Strawless actually recorded an average date of 23rd April from 51 years of observations. His earliest record was 9th April and his latest being the 9th May.

More details of Robert Marsham’s observations are to be seen in a superb exhibition at St Margaret’s Church at Stratton Strawless.

Roe groups

April 21, 2011

 The Roe group this evening consisted of the older buck and two does. I doubt that this is a permanent change but it could show the looser ties which bind the herd as a result of the arrival of the younger buck. I wonder whether the young buck has been driven away and has taken the others with him. This can only be conjecture. I will continue to watch and take notes.

It may be coincidence but the smaller group seems to be more nervous. They stay close to the sanctuary of the woodland edge and are vigilant. They don’t react to every noise or scent which drifts in their direction but they remain watchful. Perhaps this is the young buck and his splinter group. It is almost impossible to tell without the two males side by side.

Rivalry

April 18, 2011

Father and son rivalry is back in the parish. The return of grass growth over the past week has drawn the Roe deer out of their winter quarters. Last year’s offspring have turned out to be, as I suspected, one of each sex.

The young buck, with this year’s antlers still covered in velvet, is annoying his father just by being there. In the soft morning light, the youngster generally keeps a respectful distance, but when he strays too close his father runs at him making him jink, swerve and put a few more yards in between. Over the next few weeks both bucks will scratch the velvet from their antlers and the competition will start in earnest.  It will be interesting to see how long the youngster is tolerated within the family group.

Arrivals

April 16, 2011

A Swallow twittered and dashed around the buildings of Brampton Hall on the evening of Friday 15th April. Possibly not the first arrival, but the first I have seen in the parish this spring. Only a matter of days before the Cuckoo calls for the first time – hopefully next Saturday morning 23rd, but I am sure someone will hear one sooner..

Wave of blossom

April 8, 2011

It is at this point where all of those time- lapse natural history films come to mind.  We watched the welcome early bursts of cherry blossom, which first lit up the hedges a fortnight ago or so, which have been replaced by a breaking wave of Blackthorn. All along the railway line each hour of warmth persuades more blossom to burst.  The newly arrived Warblers now start to fit in with those illustrations that you find in coffee table style bird books.

Amongst the trees the Hawthorn and the Sycamore have reached bud-burst. The Oak and the Ash, ever the laggards, are not far behind.

At the cottage, the Barn Owl has morphed into a garden bird – at least late at night. Wednesday night was punctuated by their rough screeches.