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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..

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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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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.

September skies

September 17, 2016

This week the House Martins abandoned our skies and headed for warmer climes. Recently they had gathered in wheeling flock of 40+ over the village – something akin to training flights for the late fledged young combined with a feeding frenzy. Air Temperatures had been high since Tuesday and the sky had become that deep shade of blue – cloudless and somewhat oppressive. Temperatures hit 32 degrees C (89 degrees Fahrenheit in old money) and activity on the ground had slowed. Then I noticed that they had gone – as ever to some unseen signal they had dissappeared. No stragglers apparent since then as I write this on a Saturday evening. The place is somewhat quiet without their movement and their cheerful calls.

A lone Swift flies over the garden this afternoon. I had become so used to the packs of Swifts cutting through the skies and round the chimney tops, that their absence brings a strange silence to the evenings. Autumn is approaching.

Cuckoos are mysterious. It is in their nature. Since the first Brampton Cuckoo arrived and started calling on Easter Sunday, there has been a suspicious silence. In fact it was only very early this morning that I heard another Cuckoo calling and since then, nothing.

This is however, so often the case. I am not convinced that it is purely down to a decline in Cuckoo numbers. In most years we still have a population. It may be that as a species they travel over large distances in order to find a mate and until this is completed they don’t settle – this does seem to be borne out by radio tracking data published by the British Trust for Ornithology. On their records Cuckoos travel widely before they home into the areas from which they originated (or so it seems).

In any event, I watch, listen and wait.