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The morning of 1st day of June and Brampton is at its verdant best. Last week, a period of showers and occasional sun drew out out the first crop of Mayflies, But now a blue cloudless sky only serves to highlight the rich green of the oak and ash trees which border the old railway line, where Speckled Wood butterflies bask on leafy branches. On the Town Field the wheat is in ear and nearby the allotment gardens are near fully planted. The growing Sunflowers are leaning towards a warming morning sun.

In the garden the air resounds with the feeding calls of newly fledged Blackbirds and Blue Tits. In order to sustain a nest full of hungry young the Barn Owl hunts constantly over the grazing marshes. The meadows carry a golden cloudy glow with the flowers of thousands of buttercups. The lanes and verges are brim full of Cow Parsley and Red Campion.

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I woke with a start to the insistent “shush..!” of the librarian. Until I managed to collect my thoughts, I was transported briefly back to the Reynold’s Library – that silent school sanctuary of o-level revision and homework. But with a start I realised that I was listening to the sound of night visitors to the garden and as I became more alert, I heard the sound repeated. This time less the human and the more animalistic. Now, again, with an answering call which only slightly varied in pitch. It was the same sound for which we had paused to listed for a few moments near the old farm buildings – sometimes a hiss, sometimes a screech. These were the roost contact calls of Barn Owls. The owls were hunting over the now deserted gardens, quartering the deserted lawns, driveways,mushers and beds and gentle calling to one another as they went. The sound sneaking through the open window of the sleeping house. Their visit drawn by the gathered presence of rats and mice which had deserted the now depleted fields and hedgerows. Perhaps a less welcome thought than that of the school librarian’s insistent order. In this slightly sleep addled way I drift back to sleep

July morning

July 7, 2012

 An idyllic early July morning. As we walk out with the dogs along the old railway line, we seem to have the world to ourselves – or almost. Ahead, a Barn Owl has its usual spat with a Sparrowhawk – they briefly lock talons again before the hawk shoots off. Both predators are working hard to support growing offspring. The Sparrowhawk, in particular, seems to be hunting constantly, his presence given away by the twitter of mobbing Swallows. The Swallows’ call instantly draws attention of prey species and us – the birdsong goes quiet until the perceived danger has passed. Near Keeper’s Wood a single Roe doe keeps a close eye on us from 80 yards distance and then slips seemingly unconcerned, back into the trees. The sun is hot but a welcome wind keeps temperatures down.

We hear news of Golden Orioles, but our wish for a sighting is not answered. This brightly coloured continental birds, somewhat resembling large thrushes in size, are known to breed in the UK and we hope that their presence in the area is a good sign. Orioles are supposed to be especially fund of the canopy provided by Poplar trees, so they should feel at home here.

Barking sounds emanate from the woods. The Roe Deer rut is in full swing or so it seems. Yesterday evening their enthusiastic, somewhat primeval barks echoed along the village street as midsummer darkness descended.

Competition and demand

July 4, 2012

Demanding young are not confined to the breakfast table. Over several mornings this week, the call of a hungry young hawk has disturbed the otherwise peaceful morning chorus. On one occasion the demand for food led to an attempted mugging – a Sparrowhawk accosted a returning Barn Owl in an attempt to grab it’s prey. They span to the ground linked by their talons before the Sparrowhawk gave up his attempt.

Spring morning

May 2, 2012

There are mornings when the wildlife in the village seems to be much more active than others. Tuesday was a case in point. Songbirds were in full throated song as I walked along the railway line. Further away a Green Woodpecker predicted rain, a pair of Oystercatchers repeatedly called during their courtship flight, a noisy pair of Canada Geese did the same – but even more loudly. At the Buxton Bridge the resident pair of Stock Doves made Grey seem less like a drab colour with their breeding apparel highlighted by patches metallic green. A few paces on and a male Barn Owl floated up from a fence post clutching a catch and flew off nest-wards by its usual circuitous route. As I turned round I watched a Roe Doe contentedly browsing on fresh hawthorn leaves along the edge of Keeper’s Wood. All within a period of 15 minutes and no more than a quarter of a mile. The change in the weather must be the root cause.

Owl colour

July 24, 2011

Barn Owls vary in size between males and females. They also show great variation in colouration.

The most common sighting on the meadows is a large white Barn Owl. I have mentioned this on a number of times over the past two years. Before this one appeared, the residents appeared to me to have been a smaller type, often with a contrasting caramel coloured wing and a creamy or duskier breast. These were not just a smaller single male – there were often a pair about at the same time. It makes me wonder whether the larger white bird comes from a different population, or perhaps was released in the area.

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.