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One advantage of dog walking at dusk come from the heightened senses of the dogs themselves. This evening as we strolled westwards along the railway line, the slight breeze blew into our faces. Ideal conditions for a close encounter with deer or other mammals – at least before they see you. This evening the dogs pressed forward into their collars, obviously receiving a juicy scent. We were very clearly following something interesting although never is sight, whatever it was kept ahead of us and maintained a steady pace. Then, at the Blackthorn clump the dogs followed the scent into the hedge. We carried on. Climbing up the steps and glancing over the plough, a russet brown shape made its way back along the margin. Then it turned back to the hedge and onto the railway line again. The last thing to disappear being the unmistakable shape of a fox’s brush like tail.

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Water bats

September 25, 2011

Bat detecting is addictive. A warmish evening spent at Oxnead Bridge reveals the usual Pipistrelles but it is the river bat that we went to find. These bats, more properly known at the Daubenton’s Bat, hunt low over the surface of the river, sometimes seeming to touch the surface or scoop it’s prey. A whirring flight at a constant height low over the river surface is characteristic – this evening the run was between the Bridge and the next corner upstream. It was active just after dusk and the best view was from the base of the bridge on the Brampton side. We walked home in the gathering dark and reluctantly left the sounds (and the ravenous midges) behind us.

Cuckoo

May 2, 2011

In the end it was on a breezy, clear morning of the 1st May when the Cuckoo announced its presence. The call which drifted in and out on the breeze was persistent and seemed to come from higher up the valley – perhaps from Tuttington

In spite of reports from others and letters of announcement in the newspaper, this was the first definite local Cuckoo which I have heard. Earlier incarnations seem to have been just passing through. Perhaps the east winds have not favoured the Cuckoo in its normal migration route making it a little late.

Caution Mermaid crossing

February 24, 2011

After some dull February days it came as a relief this morning to feel that Spring is really happening. The intensity of bird song has increased – the Skylarks of the Town field were in full song and a bolshie Yellowhammer was re-establishing his ground on the railway line. The full throated calls of the Song Thrush, with it’s characteristic regular five repeats, rang out over the Common. There was even a sense that the sun may appear.
Down at the Mermaid, river bank repairs are continuing. The sleeper wall which holds the river in place as it passes under the railway line has finally had to be replaced. There is some doubt as to how long the originals had been in place- the uprights had been pointed by hand and hammered in. I suppose it is possible that these could have been put in by the Victorians during the construction of the railway, but it would be interesting if anybody knows? It was with some relief that I learnt that the timbers which form the narrow crossing over this section are going back on.

Scandinavians are back

October 23, 2010

Winter visitors continue to arrive. This, the first week of October has seen the arrival of the Redwings – that small thrush which spends it’s summers in Scandinavia and it’s winters in the UK. 

At first they are extremely shy. Their insipid high pitched “sip” call and a retreating shadow is often all you see as you walk along the Bure Valley railway line. When they have gorged themselves on the rich berry harvest for a few days, they seem to relax and gain confidence and become less wary. 

Another elusive Winter visitor is the Golden Plover. Brampton is a temporary home to large flock in October and again in the Spring. 

I have always assumed that this is a Plover staging post whilst they on their way south and back again; always the same fields. The give away is the whistling tuneful call – they are known locally as the Whistling Plover. They fly at a reasonable height in small groups and call to one another as they go. They are still moving around when it is dark and this is often the first sign that one catches. My first of the Autumn was early on Sunday morning, a little after 6 a.m – a plaintive but tuneful note.