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Swifts return

May 12, 2013

Every year I eagerly await the arrival of Swifts. Brampton is home to a declining number, presumably due to the loss of nest sites as buildings are being re-roofed and closed off. This morning two pairs screamed their way around the roof tops of the village. Reports of their arrival elsewhere in Norfolk was causing a degree of anxiety about  a Brampton no-show. But they have got here. It is likely that the showery weather has pushed the insects down to lower levels, thus bringing the Swifts with them.  As the poet Ted Hughes put it, the Swifts circle madly “Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned..” As if to announce their ownership of the air space around the eves. 

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If you have faith in the Herbal guides, a walk along the railway line in Brampton can seem like a cure-all. Not only by the pure pleasure of walking, but by careful scrutiny of the wild flowers and herbs which have colonised the banks and verges. The shallow soil and dry conditions form a habitat for many medicinal plants. This year’s late onset of warm weather has brought many species on together. Many, apparently, carry benefits to the digestion in it’s various stages (Cranesbill, Cleavers and Herb Bennett), give relief from cuts and stings (Plantain) and some have the additional benefit of treating sword wounds and warding off witches (St John’s Wort). Thankfully not much call for all of these in Brampton this year.

Neither the Oak nor the Ash triumphed in the race to be the first into full leaf this year.  So although I cannot claim to have knowingly met an old wife; they have had to forget their theory of long-term weather forecasting based upon the result (“Oak before Ash…etc.”). The sudden improvement in the weather has encouraged every plant to develop at once. As this photograph shows, taken upon one morning this week, each species was pushing it’s leaves out at the same time.  As they did so, the Hawthorn flowers were arriving in all their glory. Then without a further backward glance Spring turns to Summer.

Oak or Ash - all emerge together

There is a distinct pattern of bubbles that mark the trail of a submerged Otter. They burst at the waters surface and mark the route of an agile mammal moving at some speed. This evenings were typical; swimming at what must have been no more than say a foot’s depth, where the River Mermaid joins the Bure, the line of bubbles was a like row of silver coins – each a few inches apart in a curving trail under the footbridge. The Otter kept submerged until the safety of the overhanging willow where it invisibly surfaced before diving to the sanctuary of the deeper waters of the Bure. We waited to see if would return, perhaps racked with the supposed curiosity of mammals of this type, but it had obviously seen enough of us and had retired out if sight.

First Swallows

April 21, 2012

This morning, before the rains returned, two Swallows swooped and turned over the grazing meadows. I wondered whether they felt that they had arrived too early as the weather turned to rain. The last swallows that I had seen were the late leaving laggards of last autumn, but the spring arrivals in north-west Spain. They flew around in the warmth of a Barcelona evening amongst the Parakeets and Spotless Starlings of the Parc de la Cuitadella; the wet northern spring must come as quite a shock.

Green fuse

March 24, 2012

Bud burst is nearly upon us. Hawthorn and Elders in the hedges and Willows on the Common are all showing the emergent tips of fresh leaves. Ash trees on the railway line are also starting to stir, but they tend to take a long time – obviously not in a hurry in their annual race with the Oaks. The poet Larkin compared this emergent stage to “something almost being said” and you do get the feeling of Spring being on the verge of a new stage.

In the Churchyard, the Daffodils (or Lent Lilies) are absolutely at their peak, just in time to welcome everybody for this evenings Spring choral concert. Outside the Church workmen are digging up the road in a perhaps less welcome sign of the season.