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Over the last few days the evening has arrived with golden sunset. It feels like a time of change – the last Swallows skimmed the last stubble of the harvest a few days ago, before heading south. The autumn migrants have arrived from the north.

It was last Wednesday evening, whilst accompanied by a post-hopping Barn Owl, that we heard this year’s Golden Plover. Their plaintive whistling calls carry to us, above even the traffic noise along the Buxton Road. It was twilight, the sunset had been spectacular and darkness was falling fast. Every year flocks of Golden Plover rest for a few days on tawny arable fields above the old Roman Road. We could hear their calls but their restless flocks were invisible.

This morning’s clear skies, after a light frost, rendered the chance of seeing them altogether better. Looking south we soon spotted the flock of about fifty birds, their silhouette unmistakable – on knife-shaped wings they wheeled and turned, in synchrony their colours alternating dark and pale as they flew. Flying for fun, circling and settling before setting off again. All the time their whistles carrying down to us, earthbound.

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The combination of speed, grace and agility make any glimpse of this
small falcon an exhilarating one. Hobbys are summer visitors to the
parish. Every year, when I see one, I tend to get over-excited about it.
For obvious reasons small birds, their prey species, would not agree. This
wariness manifests itself in the almost perceptible electric tension in the air as the
Hobby appears – bird song stops and are replaced by their alarm calls as they
dive for cover. This morning’s target – a Meadow Pipit on the Common
– was lucky, quickly diving for cover and safety.

Brampton Autumn; an update

October 28, 2017

So far a dry and mild Autumn in the village has meant that most of the treeshave retained their leaves. The Field Maple leaves started to turn yellow in mid October but most have yet to fall. The Poplars, which never do things by halves, have dropped all but a few isolated leaves and as a result Keeper’s Wood has taken on it’s Winter profile.

I hear the weak call of the Redwing, but as yet have not actually spotted any of the Winter visiting thrushes. A Common Sandpiper has joined the resident Egret at the Mill Pool. The Kingfisher can still be heard but the many young raised during this bountiful year have mostly dispersed. The occasional Cormornt passes through and I hope that it has a taste for Signal Crayfish rather than for our already depleted Bure fish stocks. Skeins of wild geese add their music as they fly over on their way to the beet fields.

The Roe Deer have gathered into small family groups. Their coats taking on their tawny Autumn colour, rather than that glowing orange-red of Summer, as they prepare for the colder season. The Muntjac galumph about in pairs – seemingly without fear they focus on the gardens and the allotment.

This year the Cuckoo was a late arrival in the valley. We can usually expect to hear their first call in late April, but not this year. Bill heard the first call yesterday morning (25th May) and I did not hear mine until 6.30 this morning (26th). The call was high and clear, sailing above the chorus of warblers and blackbirds that we are, thankfully, used to.

As the Cuckoo is such a wily and observant species, not given to wasting energy – or so I like to assume – then the species upon which is parasitises (the egg host) must be just into full egg laying. Perhaps the Sedge Warblers along the Bure. Certainly not the garden Dunnocks who seem to have been hard at work for a month or so already. We are unlikely to find out for certain. All we can say is the the Cuckoo is back from West Africa – Sumer is incumen in..

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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A solitary duck springs up from the pool above the mill. It’s long wings and markings characteristic of a Wigeon – normally a coastal bird of salt marsh, this one spent the night at Oxnead. Migration and movement are the themes now.