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Over the last few days the evening has arrived with golden sunset. It feels like a time of change – the last Swallows skimmed the last stubble of the harvest a few days ago, before heading south. The autumn migrants have arrived from the north.

It was last Wednesday evening, whilst accompanied by a post-hopping Barn Owl, that we heard this year’s Golden Plover. Their plaintive whistling calls carry to us, above even the traffic noise along the Buxton Road. It was twilight, the sunset had been spectacular and darkness was falling fast. Every year flocks of Golden Plover rest for a few days on tawny arable fields above the old Roman Road. We could hear their calls but their restless flocks were invisible.

This morning’s clear skies, after a light frost, rendered the chance of seeing them altogether better. Looking south we soon spotted the flock of about fifty birds, their silhouette unmistakable – on knife-shaped wings they wheeled and turned, in synchrony their colours alternating dark and pale as they flew. Flying for fun, circling and settling before setting off again. All the time their whistles carrying down to us, earthbound.

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Brampton: Evening falls

July 24, 2018

At the end of a hot July day,  we sit outside with glasses in hand. To sit and watch the night fall is a simple pleasure, but one of which we never tire. 

A Barn Owl which skims the roof and garden trees, is intent on hunting – its call breaks the falling silence. Bats appear. Pipistrelles and, we assume, Long-Eared Bats. Each following a circuit of widening spirals. An ultrasound bat-detector helps us follow their course – their call speeding up as they home-in on an insect.

The moon, not yet full but waxing and large in the southern sky, sails in solitary splendour over the ash trees which edge the old rail line. Minute by minute stars start to appear. We check their names and constellations. Vega seems to be the first, balanced at the head of Lyra. Then all of sudden, many more follow. Just before ten o’clock a bright spot arcing past the Moon turns out to be the International Space Station on it’s first visible pass of the night.  

Our attention turns to the satellites, a man-made intrusion in to the natural view, but wonderful for all of that. Their names create their own poetry – SEASAT, ERBS, Integral, Genesis II.

On a more earthly theme, toads shuffle around the flower pots.

The combination of speed, grace and agility make any glimpse of this
small falcon an exhilarating one. Hobbys are summer visitors to the
parish. Every year, when I see one, I tend to get over-excited about it.
For obvious reasons small birds, their prey species, would not agree. This
wariness manifests itself in the almost perceptible electric tension in the air as the
Hobby appears – bird song stops and are replaced by their alarm calls as they
dive for cover. This morning’s target – a Meadow Pipit on the Common
– was lucky, quickly diving for cover and safety.

Brampton: arrival of Spring

February 25, 2018

The churchyard is filling with Snowdrops. Aconites and a few Daffodils. All flowering under a bright, clear sky. The easterly breeze reminds me that we have probably not seen the last of Winter, but Spring cannot be far off.

On a stag-headed Oak at Brampton Hall a male Great Spotted Woodpecker drums against a hollow branch, each salvo declaring his territorial rights in preparation for the breeding season. Further south, perched high on a favourite Railway embankment Ash tree, a Song Thrush is singing for much of the day. Each short phrase repeated four or five times carries through the cold air. Although in the garden a Scandinavian Brambling forages amongst the Chaffinches to build up reserves for the northern Spring. At night Muntjac Deer wander, hardly noticed, around the village houses and gardens.

December: Kingfisher

December 5, 2017

Thankfully the sight of a Kingfisher is not a rare event along this stretch of the Bure. But, even by our normal standards this year has been a particularly rich one. The Mill pair successfully raised a large brood and, during our Summer morning walks, we followed their fishing and feeding flights as they worked to raise them. On one notable morning and somewhat unusually, I even stumbled across two of them perched on the ground on the edge of the mill pool.
But, as I write, in early December, the position is somewhat different. Numbers have thinned out. The young had dispersed in the Summer and the fewer permanent residents have re-secured their territories. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and the light has taken on that washed-out Winter quality. As a result the electric blues and greens of the Kingfisher stand out almost shockingly, or they did on Saturday as we watched a single bird work the ditch. This bird was either oblivious of us or was happy to go about his fishing whilst we watched. I realized that I was holding my breath as I watched – the bird’s head turned towards the surface of the water, gently moving left and right before it sprang downwards out of sight before returning to the same perch. Time and again. Gradually working its way along the drain, the colours glowing in the weak morning sunlight.
 

Brampton Autumn; an update

October 28, 2017

So far a dry and mild Autumn in the village has meant that most of the treeshave retained their leaves. The Field Maple leaves started to turn yellow in mid October but most have yet to fall. The Poplars, which never do things by halves, have dropped all but a few isolated leaves and as a result Keeper’s Wood has taken on it’s Winter profile.

I hear the weak call of the Redwing, but as yet have not actually spotted any of the Winter visiting thrushes. A Common Sandpiper has joined the resident Egret at the Mill Pool. The Kingfisher can still be heard but the many young raised during this bountiful year have mostly dispersed. The occasional Cormornt passes through and I hope that it has a taste for Signal Crayfish rather than for our already depleted Bure fish stocks. Skeins of wild geese add their music as they fly over on their way to the beet fields.

The Roe Deer have gathered into small family groups. Their coats taking on their tawny Autumn colour, rather than that glowing orange-red of Summer, as they prepare for the colder season. The Muntjac galumph about in pairs – seemingly without fear they focus on the gardens and the allotment.

A small flock of Golden Plover brighten up and otherwise nondescript morning. At first we nearly missed them as we walked along the old track, but then we noticed them; 26 Plover milling about quietly in a field of Winter Wheat. They took no notice of us – confident in their security. The light was too low for a photograph. A few low whistling calls came from them, but as we continued to walk on they gradually merged into the background and disappeared from view. I like to assume that they are simply stopping over on their Spring migration north, although they may have wintered here.