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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.

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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.

I count eighty eight House Martins and Swallows on the telephone lines near the Common. The gathering continues until, at some hidden signal, they will depart and leave us and take the summer with them. When that moment actually arrives is hard to spot, but by Sunday evening they have dispersed. The village really is on the cusp of the seasons this week. The convergence of the river, its valley, rail lines and roads seeming to combine to create a meeting place for the moving migrants. That evening we stumble across two Fallow Deer, not the usual Roe or Muntjac, both of whom were moving with intent – their own small scale migration in search of new territory.

The next morning the unmistakeable call of the Golden Plover drifts down as the first flock arrives at their favourite stopping off point on the way south from their tundra breeding grounds. As always they centre themselves on the same arable fields which must have become ingrained as the traditional rest on their long journey south. We hope to hear them during their night time flights as the moon becomes full late in September.

Golden flock

April 20, 2013

Early morning . The wind still gusting, but on the breeze came the whistling calls of Golden Plover. Every year a reasonable number pause here, en route to their breeding grounds near or in the Arctic Circle. A flock of 70 or so weaves and circled over the fields as the commuter traffic started to buzz along the Aylsham Road. A contrast between the mundane and the wild.

 

Even as another smear of rain blows in our faces and the Winter mood appears to darken further, there are signs of life and the hint of preparation. The Ash’s black buds glisten and promise something for the future. Bullfinches work the new hedges at Low Farm and the contact calls of a distant group of Golden Plover drift through the murk.

In the village, the scent of wood smoke drifts along the Street. Cottages are decorated and decorations have appeared in the church for Christmas as everyone clings on to the light on the shortest day.

A quiet morning in the village. Hardly a breath of wind and an overcast sky – calm and more settled weather as predicted by yesterday’s fiery sunset. As we walk back to the cottage, a flight of 25 Golden Plover sail overhead in formation, their gentle whistling call drifting down. These Plovers are regular visitors en route during their spring and autumn migrations. They always seem to choose the same fields on which inch to congregate, presumably for the safety derived from their relative height, size and aspect. Their numbers fluctuate as parties arrive and leave but their collective visit extends to weeks rather than days. On many occasions, as I lay in bed during a clear moonlit night, their whistling calls remind me of the tundra and their northern origins.