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In most years the Cuckoos arrive in the Bure valley on or around St George’s Day. This year is an exception. Even though the radio-tracked BTO Cuckoos are starting to reach the UK, we have yet to hear the first call of a Brampton Cuckoo. Even David Humphrey, who lives as close to the river meadows as anyone and is usually the first to notice, has not heard one yet. The winds have been slightly chill and northerly-ish, so this has probably had something to do with it. We keep waiting and listening.
Other summer migrants are settling in. A Blackcap has settled in the copse next to the cottage and announces his presence with his complex warbling song. The Chiffchaffs have been here for seemingly ages. A few Swallows hawk over the river as we walked past this evening. More surprisingly, as I walked down the road this lunch time a series of alarm calls from various small birds made me look up to see a Hobby sail over Street Farm. Spotting these little Falcons never ceases to cause that tingle of excitement – possibly because of the collective alarms calls which great their appearance. But once again this felt a little out of sequence – I usually expect to see them after the House Martins have arrived, assuming that they follow them northwards for the summer. But assumptions are so often wrong.

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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