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The hedgerow berries, such as Hawthorn,  have been bountiful this year. But The winter thrushes, the Redwings and Fieldfares, wait until the sharpest frosts of December have passed before they feed upon them. This morning, the 16th December, was the key date for this year’s feast. Numerous scattered flocks roll and flutter from bush to bush ahead of us as we walk along the old railway line. Their calls, a strange mixed chorus of the Fieldfares’ ‘chock-chook’ calls and their Redwings’ weaker ‘seeep’, surround us during their frenzy of feeding.

By the next week, the Hawthorns are stripped. All but the outermost berries  have been taken.

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Boxing Day morning seemed quiet. The whole village appeared to having a lie-in. On days like these the rest of the parish’s residents – at least the wildlife ones – carry on with business as usual. As I walked past the allotments arrowheads of duck and purposeful pigeons travelled in opposite directions. Finches settled in the tops of the sycamore along the edge of the ‘wild bird food’ crops on the old shoreline. Then, I swear I felt the rush of air as a hawk overtook me on the village street. A male sparrowhawk appeared from over my shoulder, dropped to a few inches above the road surface and flew intent and fast along the lane. Intent, no doubt, upon ambushing a finch.

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: 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.

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 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.