Brampton: arrival of Spring

February 25, 2018

The churchyard is filling with Snowdrops. Aconites and a few Daffodils. All flowering under a bright, clear sky. The easterly breeze reminds me that we have probably not seen the last of Winter, but Spring cannot be far off.

On a stag-headed Oak at Brampton Hall a male Great Spotted Woodpecker drums against a hollow branch, each salvo declaring his territorial rights in preparation for the breeding season. Further south, perched high on a favourite Railway embankment Ash tree, a Song Thrush is singing for much of the day. Each short phrase repeated four or five times carries through the cold air. Although in the garden a Scandinavian Brambling forages amongst the Chaffinches to build up reserves for the northern Spring. At night Muntjac Deer wander, hardly noticed, around the village houses and gardens.


A cacophony at dawn

April 21, 2013

Five o’clock in the morning – the dawn chorus at this time of the year arrives in a rush. At first a single Blackbird sings in a recognisable but subdued manner. Thirty seconds later Song Thrushes, Wrens, more Blackbirds and assorted others joined in a joyous cacophony. In truth the small delay was hardly noticeable. As if a switch is thrown and the  need to shout at full volume is paramount. After a few minutes order returns, bird song settles and a lone Song thrush repeats its favoured phrases, each three to four times within a song of many verses.

Dawn on a Sunday in mid-February arrived in a grey pall. A frost has etched its way through the garden and the air was still. But the sound of birdsong has gathered new strength; the Sing Thrush which has claimed an Ash tree to the west of the cottage was trading vocal blows with his rival neighbour at the Old Smithy. This dual in sound followed strict rules. An opening five phrase repeat from one bird was followed by a pause and a response from the other. Their notes filled with the vigour and meaning as the serious business of territorial claims were reinforced. In the background Robins and Wrens added their own vocals. On the ground Snowdrops continue to flower and the early Daffodils venture forth with the yellow herald’s trumpet.


This morning, for seemingly the first time in weeks, bird song returned to the garden. Firstly, a hardy and optimistic Song Thrush took up a favourite perch high in a Maple and practiced his lines. Then Robins duetted. All was noise and song for about half an hour until the rains returned.

Every field is beyond saturation point. We watch the River Bure wondering how much more run-off water it can take. Puddles are too large to step around and the rain has an edge of cold which makes us scurry the dogs around before seeking sanctuary in the house.


Broken silences

February 26, 2011

At a certain point the balance tips. Early this morning, in spite of the dark and the persistent drizzly rain, a Song Thrush was singing in full voice. It is as if the bird’s determination to express itself would overcome any obstacle even the absence of light itself. To me this seems to show that that the territorial urge has become so strong that nothing will discourage it.

Last night, as I was deep in a book, the dark and silence was broken by the unmistakeable whistling hum which comes from the wings of a Mute Swan in flight.  Presumably disorientated by the lack of visibility, I can only hope that it found its way back to the river. Wildfowl do fly by night but in my experience this usually occurs on moonlit nights and not on nights of poor visibility such as last night. Perhaps this one was disturbed from it’s roost by a fox.


Dawn on a rainy Saturday

February 12, 2011

In the subdued pre-dawn light, the variety of bird song is gradually increasing. The Robins, now well established, defend their bubbles of territory.  In the rain a Song Thrush adds to the mix, perhaps for the first time this year, but then stops.

The Blackbirds seem even less sure of themselves. Contact and alarm calls are the norm, as males seek to carve out an area of garden as their own. Any song, if it ever gets going, is fleeting and unsure. In the undergrowth the Dunnocks shout briefly and move on; their song does not really develop any further and reminds me of the sounds from a toddler’s game of hide and seek.

One notable addition is the song of the Great Tit, only really two notes, but strident, clear and as much a sign of spring as a Song Thrush. It is of limited musical quality and is known to us as “the squeaky wheel-barrow bird”, which just about sums it up.