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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.
 

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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.

This year the Cuckoo was a late arrival in the valley. We can usually expect to hear their first call in late April, but not this year. Bill heard the first call yesterday morning (25th May) and I did not hear mine until 6.30 this morning (26th). The call was high and clear, sailing above the chorus of warblers and blackbirds that we are, thankfully, used to.

As the Cuckoo is such a wily and observant species, not given to wasting energy – or so I like to assume – then the species upon which is parasitises (the egg host) must be just into full egg laying. Perhaps the Sedge Warblers along the Bure. Certainly not the garden Dunnocks who seem to have been hard at work for a month or so already. We are unlikely to find out for certain. All we can say is the the Cuckoo is back from West Africa – Sumer is incumen in..

We like to think that we make the most of our Kingfisher spotting opportunities. The technique is straightforward – attune yourselves to the high pitched call and grab the fleeting sighting when it presents itself. Usually only a glimpse as the bird whirs low over the water to a less visible perch always from the viewer.  This morning’s glimpse started in the same way – a glow of of a moving point in sunlit emerald as the Kingfisher fled upstream.

But then the same bird turned back towards us. This hardly ever happens. Perching on the Oxnead weir for a short while, he/she set offf on an aerial circuit around us as treetop height. Returning twice more before perching, again well within sight, on an overhanging branch. As we walked on the calls kept coming and the activity was constant. Spring had sprung in the Kingfisher’s world and we counted ourselves lucky to have chanced upon it.

E60F5D14-1BB2-4593-8F31-3520C22344BE The sight of Roe Deer has become increasingly common in Brampton in recent years (see link to other posts within the Village blog), but they always feel like an encounter with a wilder, slightly separate world. Usually, the sighting it at some distance and commonly it is for a fleeting moment before the deer melt into the safety of woodland. However, the other evening the encounter was closer. It was all the more surprising because, as we walked along with the Whippets, conversation was in full flow – not the whispers and hand signals that so often have to accompany a deer stalk. The wind was in our favour, blowing from the deer to us – otherwise they would have sensed us, a hundred yards further back. But on this occasion it was an eye to eye meeting, as can be appreciated by the resultant photos.

 

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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.

Brampton: The Roman Shore

December 27, 2016

Mist fills the river valley. It is Christmas Eve Eve and I notice that the mists sticks to the hollows and seems to highlight the probably line of the Roman shore (- the Bure was only contained in the 18th Century and, until then, wandered where it wished. Although the Pastons and the millers probably exherted some control in order to protect their stewponds / mill water). In Roman times this was an arm of the Great Estuary and  flat-bottomed early “wherries” probably traded from here – exporting barley and pottery, I guess.

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