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The Cuckoo is slightly early this year; announcing his presence with a circuit of the village at 5.15 this morning. In the clear, slightly chilly morning air his call was clear and close – the closer they are, the more the syllables separate. His aerial tour continued to the river, calling all the way.

Brampton Spring: mimic

April 17, 2016

For some days now we have been scanning the skies for the early morning Buzzard whose call drifts across the village. The strange thing being that Buzzards are not normally early risers. The tend to wait for the warmer air which makes their thermal-borne soaring survey so much easier. This one seemed to be an early bird. Then it became clear. The Buzzard in the copse, in which the trees look too spindly to support a bird of any size, was not a Buzzard at all. The call was that of a mimic; a Jay, which seemed to be chortling quietly to itself as it hopped away – happy to have caused a little confusion in the garden.

The morning of Easter Sunday is clear and bright. The fresh southerly breeze of yesterday afternoon has delivered change. This morning Spring migrants have arrived. Only last Thursday the Winter Thrushes, Fieldfare and Redwings, were gathering on the freshly ploughed Church Field. By Good Friday they had left for the tundra.

This morning a single Swallow swooped around Fern Cottage, vibrant chattering call announcing its arrival. The garden near Pear Tree Pyghtle echoes to the persistent call of a Chiffchaff. A flock of Golden Plover drift around on the strong breeze directly over the village; their melodic, almost mournful, whistling calls gently shower down. The flock numbers forty or so, perhaps more. They stopover for a few days in Spring and Autumn – centring on the same fields and occasionally setting off on circular flights around the parish calling as they go. To me this is the real sign that Spring is here.

The Island was full of Snipe. As we walked along the footpath they spring from the river margin singly and in groups, or “Wisps” as they are known – such a descriptive collective noun; covering both their alarm call and their diminutive and rapidly scattering disappearance. Yesterday’s northerly breeze has calmed and it was now so Spring-like. A promise of warmer weather in the week ahead.

David reports of a flock of chattering birds in the river Alders – from their size, noise and description we wonder if they were Waxwings pausing briefly on their way north.

The Anglo-Saxons, who felt the changing year more keenly than we do, referred to 9th May as the beginning of Summer. (For a more expert view I recommend the blog A Clerk of Oxford http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/summer-sun-brightest-anglo-saxon-summer.html ). So often I find myself agreeing with the Anglo-Saxon view. Rogationtide, that three day run up to Ascension Day, starts tomorrow and fits neatly into the turning of the seasonal calendar.

I am sitting in the garden as I write. From time to time a shower of Cherry blossom drifts down – not caused by “rough winds” but by a gentle breeze that stirs the top branches, before dying down again. A Blackbird sings from a nearby fir, a Blackcap from the copse, Swifts scream whilst twisting and turning overhead. The strong insistent song of a Wren bursts out just before it dives into its nest, tucked in the porch rafters. Rather worryingly for the garden, Woodpigeons have taken up residence within striking distance of the young Sweet Peas. But their mellifluous repetitive song just adds to the meditative atmosphere of the garden.

The Cuckoo has been silent in the valley for three days since announcing its arrival last Thursday. I have noticed this before – a settling in period, before the period of persistent song arrives in earnest. When they do get going Cuckoos travel up and down the river valley and I have been lucky enough to see their nuptial flight (or their territorial battle, depending upon your interpretation), more than once at this time of the year.

For me, the song of few birds symbolise the end of Winter and the impending arrival of Spring more than that of the Mistle Thrush. This morning the village was engulfed in that wild, wind blown song. The singer was perched high in the old Ash. The song seemed designed to float and carry on the breeze – a breeze which still carried the edge of Winter on it. As we approached the Thrush moved to one of the hill Oaks, his song did not pause but gathered in intensity as he settled on the utmost stag-headed branch. Around the base of the tree the Daffodil buds seemed to be on the verge of opening – drawn out by the Thrush’s call.

Brampton asylum

June 23, 2014

In the first place it was Andrew’s desire to actually see and not just hear a Cuckoo that made me keep my eyes peeled. The occasion was the Village Barbecue – a gathering of neighbours, which this year was to be held on Geoff and Helen’s ground. Their garden has an enviable location, lying snugly along the western edge of the grazing marshes known as Brampton Common. The Common itself is a wildlife highway. The focus of movement is the route of the clear, slow flow of the River Bure. It seems that much wildlife migration, whether local or international, follows this line.

It was across the Common or at least on electricity cables which cross it, that the Cuckoos gathered. Not just one Cuckoo but, as our eyes adjusted and binoculars were gathered an as we watched four Cuckoos grouped on the cables. Each would call from time to time. Almost in turn they swooped down intermittently in what must have been the pursuit of some hatching insect. Some food item had drawn their attention and collected them together.

I attempted to photograph the event with the camera which I had to hand. Grainy images were all I could muster. Some provided a recognisable silhouette, others merely proved that “bird sits on wire”.
One of the Gang of Four.
what we saw was a rare event and certainly as far as I am concerned, unseen before now. My original theory that it was a pre-migration gathering (although a little too early in the year) has since been disproven as Cuckoos have continued to call locally all the way through to the end of June.

it was solely down to that helpful combination of gatherings, a food source and many pairs of eyes. That goes for those at the barbecue and those birds on a wire.