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The familiar flight silhouette. An insistent call, loud and chattering, high up around the upper branches of a swaying Poplar, following by an effortless scything flight. The Summer-visiting Hobby Falcon was back. In this case, two of them – the first the agile flier, the second (presumably the female) slightly shy, keeping the branches between it and us as we gazed up. The call changed to the more familiar repetitive falcon kee-kee-kee-kee.. as the male completed an arc, in sight then out of sight, before returning along the far side of the trees, his wings at first spread in a fast approval and then folded in a shallow dive towards his mate. To us this seemed like the start of Summer. To them, no doubt, the start of the serious business of the breeding season.

In most years the Cuckoos arrive in the Bure valley on or around St George’s Day. This year is an exception. Even though the radio-tracked BTO Cuckoos are starting to reach the UK, we have yet to hear the first call of a Brampton Cuckoo. Even David Humphrey, who lives as close to the river meadows as anyone and is usually the first to notice, has not heard one yet. The winds have been slightly chill and northerly-ish, so this has probably had something to do with it. We keep waiting and listening.
Other summer migrants are settling in. A Blackcap has settled in the copse next to the cottage and announces his presence with his complex warbling song. The Chiffchaffs have been here for seemingly ages. A few Swallows hawk over the river as we walked past this evening. More surprisingly, as I walked down the road this lunch time a series of alarm calls from various small birds made me look up to see a Hobby sail over Street Farm. Spotting these little Falcons never ceases to cause that tingle of excitement – possibly because of the collective alarms calls which great their appearance. But once again this felt a little out of sequence – I usually expect to see them after the House Martins have arrived, assuming that they follow them northwards for the summer. But assumptions are so often wrong.

For me Summer of 2012 ended at 8.45 on 2nd September. The swallows were gathering in groups around the Hall barns. But, further down Church Lane a single Swallow circled the doctor’s house uttering an urgent hawk-alarm call. Looking up we spotted the cause of it’s concern, a falcon was in the vicinity and was climbing the thermal-free air. The effort was obvious; with wing beats which reminded my of a trapped butterfly against a window pane, the falcon worked to gain height in a wide upward spiral. It was surely reaching for height, seeking the support of a constant breeze.

The Hobby is a summer visitor and this year it’s electrifying presence had been very evident. A hunting territory seemingly centring on the village with it’s plentiful food supply. But now it was time to go – probably to follow the favoured prey species, the Martins, Swallows and Dragonflies. The cooler night air was already encouraging their departure and the Hobby must follow suit.

I followed the falcon’s progress. As it crossed the orb of the Sun, it started to diminish to a dot and eventually melted into the upper air.

July Swifts

July 24, 2012

Fine weather with clear skies appears over the village. The Swifts, which have been noticeably absent during the previous dull weather, have returned to their routine low level roof-hugging evening flight. Their screaming calls ring out even as dusk approaches. I assume that their favoured insect food has hatched in large numbers in the gardens and fields as the weather has improved. The groups of Swifts include their newly fledged young, now airborne and ready to stay that was until next years breeding season or perhaps longer. As I chat with Piet outside the cottage, another streamlined hunting form appears overhead – a Hobby causes panic amongst the Starlings, but the Swifts carry on without visible concern.

The small hawk, sickle winged, jinked and swerved in its run. Its wings alternately swept back and outstretched in that fluid flight that it so characteristic of this type of hawk. I assume that the blustery conditions had forced the usual quarry – whether it be House Martins or large insects – down to street level. In any event this visit was fruitless for the hawk, but at this speed it will cover a large area and eventually successfully strike.

Hobby

August 14, 2011

Saturday afternoon and with clear predatory intent a Hobby is circling the lower end of the village.  Swallows call in alarm and seem to dash about in panic. The falcon circles effortlessly in a wide arc and, when it seems to be satisfied that there are no potential targets, it drifts southwards towards Dudwick. The Swallows seem to take some time to calm down. There was a collective holding of breath.

Wednesday

August 10, 2011

One of those mornings in Brampton. Two sightings of birds which were distinctly out of place. The unmistakeable, whirring shape and arrow like flight of a Kingfisher. It caught me out somewhat – we were walking along the railway line and at least 400 yards away from the river as the bird flew towards Dudwick. A flash of turquoise blue confirmed it’s identity.

A little further round and the scything wings of the Hobby shot between the Church and Brampton Hall. Travelling at speed at roof height – as when I last saw one in the village back in June – this small falcon almost seems to leave an electrical charge in the air in its wake. Such speed leaves you wondering whether you had actually seen it or not.

Then, as we sat over a cup of coffee upon our return, there was a rush of wings and a cloud of feathers in the garden as a female Sparrowhawk struck a Collared Dove. Both disappeared towards Street Farm at such speed that we were unable to see how this ended.

Later on, the Roe Doe accompanied by two fauns grazed quietly on the margins of the wheat field. All watched us carefully from what they felt to be a safe distance.