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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.

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Gulls rise from their overnight roost on Oxnead’s banks. It is the first Saturday of 2015. What remains of the Paston’s palatial mansion – one grand wing, a small church, a cottage and a scattering of more recent architectural follies – are set amongst gardens and lawns that slope down to the river Bure. Beyond the boundaries of the Hall gardens, the meadows and woods present a more agrarian aspect, a farmed landscape rather than one of studied grandeur.

The river water has cleared and refined down after recent rain. Along the meadow banks the water has dropped a foot or two. A hidden Kingfisher calls from the feeder drain. As we walk the gulls billow and soar briefly before re-settling. At the mill sluice gates the water no longer bursts through with its earlier insistent force. The shelves and hollows of the river bed are once again visible in the mill pool around the storm debris of a weed-draped Alder branch.

Six cygnets are being gently shepherded by their parents above the Mill Reach at Burgh. This may be a sign that the Otters are not in residence at the moment – it is possible that they have a liking for eggs, judging by last year’s low cygnet success rate. This morning the Swan family formed an ungainly parade as the followed the Mermaid downstream to the relative sanctuary of the flight pond.

This morning the Bure was beautifully transparent. Many Brown Hawker dragonflies hunt in the air around us as we glide downstream. At the confluence with King’s Beck, a Kingfisher called and whirred its way past us. In the river itself, groups of Whirligig Beetles live up to their name, whilst below Pike gave themselves away by the gentle flutter of their pelvic fins and the cruel stare of their hunter’s eye. At Bream Corner one large specimen hangs in the slow current as we pass by and then slips imperceptibly to the sanctuary of a deep weed bed. The Canoe Man shepherds a party of canoeists up to Oxnead – the party a picture of enjoyment and first-time exploration.

After a week of Spring weather the Cherries around the village have sprung into blossom.

Along the river, some summer migrants have arrived and started to announce themselves. A Chiff-Chaff Warbler was singing this morning – the clue for the sound of its song is in its name. This song tends to get grating in it’s monotony into April, but in mid March it sounds foreign, new and slightly exotic. The birds probably arrived over the last ten days or so; I heard one practising on 6th March, but this mornings songster was well into his stride.

Another bird which has a touch of the south about it was present on the marsh, a single white Little Egret was fishing in the margins of the Bure. This visit in Spring has become regular in the past few years; I can remember when the mere site of one caused excitement on the Norfolk Coast. There is possibly a nesting site on a nearby Broad. This small Heron is pure white and a relatively agile flier when compare to the native Harnser.

This morning the Bure sits high in her banks. This is thanks to the Mill and lock operators who are thankfully holding up the flow in order to preserve the limited resource.  According to Dr Briscoe’s weather recordings (http://www.buxton-norfolk.co.uk/weather.htm ) we have had only 7 inches worth out of an average of 12 inches of rainfall for the period from October to February inclusive. In other words we are 32% below average. Without some retention of flow or some pumped supply from groundwater reserves, the river would be a mere stream at best.

The other bad news for the Bure and in particular it’s fish stocks is the growing population of Cormorants. Last year numbers of visiting birds were particularly high. If they really do eat a pound of fish per day as we are told, I suspect that  fish numbers in the Bure were damaged considerably.

Iron frost and ducks

February 11, 2012

We woke up to an iron frost. As we walked out on the Common, the Bure was alive with wild duck. So many in fact that the book of collective nouns was taken off the shelf. A “spring” of Teal above Oxnead Bridge are as good as their word and take off with near vertical suddenness, only to alight again 50 yards further away. A little further upstream the frosty silence is gently broken by haunting cries announced small herd of Curlew at the top of Limekiln Farm. Further still, at least a score of duck wheeled around the Island Marsh – these proved to be Wigeon. Wigeon cause delight in their nouns; a bunch or a coil or a knob, all seem to sum them up beautifully. They circle at low levels before quickly settling below Burgh Mill.