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December: Kingfisher

December 5, 2017

Thankfully the sight of a Kingfisher is not a rare event along this stretch of the Bure. But, even by our normal standards this year has been a particularly rich one. The Mill pair successfully raised a large brood and, during our Summer morning walks, we followed their fishing and feeding flights as they worked to raise them. On one notable morning and somewhat unusually, I even stumbled across two of them perched on the ground on the edge of the mill pool.
But, as I write, in early December, the position is somewhat different. Numbers have thinned out. The young had dispersed in the Summer and the fewer permanent residents have re-secured their territories. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and the light has taken on that washed-out Winter quality. As a result the electric blues and greens of the Kingfisher stand out almost shockingly, or they did on Saturday as we watched a single bird work the ditch. This bird was either oblivious of us or was happy to go about his fishing whilst we watched. I realized that I was holding my breath as I watched – the bird’s head turned towards the surface of the water, gently moving left and right before it sprang downwards out of sight before returning to the same perch. Time and again. Gradually working its way along the drain, the colours glowing in the weak morning sunlight.
 

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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.

Brampton: The Roman Shore

December 27, 2016

Mist fills the river valley. It is Christmas Eve Eve and I notice that the mists sticks to the hollows and seems to highlight the probably line of the Roman shore (- the Bure was only contained in the 18th Century and, until then, wandered where it wished. Although the Pastons and the millers probably exherted some control in order to protect their stewponds / mill water). In Roman times this was an arm of the Great Estuary and  flat-bottomed early “wherries” probably traded from here – exporting barley and pottery, I guess.

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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.

The Island was full of Snipe. As we walked along the footpath they spring from the river margin singly and in groups, or “Wisps” as they are known – such a descriptive collective noun; covering both their alarm call and their diminutive and rapidly scattering disappearance. Yesterday’s northerly breeze has calmed and it was now so Spring-like. A promise of warmer weather in the week ahead.

David reports of a flock of chattering birds in the river Alders – from their size, noise and description we wonder if they were Waxwings pausing briefly on their way north.

Owls on Maundy Thursday

April 4, 2015

On the evening of Maundy Thursday Oxnead was quiet. It was bright and slightly chilly Spring evening. A single Roedeer nibbled at growing reed tips on the Drying Ground. This area is part of the Common which was, at one time strung with lines for drying washing and now colonised by reeds, Flag Irises and willow. A little corner that had been ignored by the drainage contractors.

A few steps further and we watched a very white Barn Owl slowly survey the ditches as she quartered the ground. The river was reflective and slow flowing. Disturbed only by a territorial Mute Swan – perhaps defending a hidden nest nearby. A second hunting Barn Owl, this time a dusky fawn colouration, watched us as we passed from a fence-post perch. 

There is a small footbridge over the little River Mermaid where is joins the Bure. It is a good place to stop and to appreciate the silence of the Bure and the grazing marshes. As we watched some duck winnowed in and a solitary Snipe called as it purposefully made its way somewhere or other. Then the pace changed. As if rowing through the air, a Short Eared Owl appeared. A faster and more effortless flight than that of Barn Owl. Its long wings alternately fixed in a short  glide, then swimming through the air, as is flew in wide arcs over the marsh. Flying at around six feet off the ground and occasionally braking, twisting and pouncing in a shallow cork screw when something caught its eye. As it passed us we caught a glimpse of those intent yellowy-orange eyes set in a flat facial disc. It was aware of our presence but carried on hunting. Presumably refuelling en route to the moor or tundra breeding ground.

We returned home exhilarated by the 

Cuckoo arrives then silence ensues for a few days. It seems to happen every year. We patiently wait for the first announcement of arrival within the village. This year it was Sue’s turn; a lunchtime stint in the allotment on 21st April was rewarded with the first calls of the newly arrived Cuckoo. Then all goes quiet, whilst we wonder if “our” Cuckoo was just passing through. Then the calls start again as the Brampton Cuckoo calls her way from Burgh, along the river Oxnead and back again. The same trees are favoured as the are very year – the Ash on the grazing meadows, the Poplars near Oxnead Bridge and the old Oak on the Brampton hill. Sumer is icumen in.