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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.

Eye of Heron

December 27, 2016

What struck me was the cold, glassy eye of the Heron perching on a low fence at Oxnead this morning. The slight frost last night had still not entirely melted and the young Heron seemed to be waiting for movement or a sign of life.

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Chasing comets in Norfolk

January 23, 2015

A crystal clear Norfolk over the village gave us a chance to do a bit of comet spotting. Comet Lovejoy sails high in the southern evening sky. We returned to the best man-made viewing platform – the old railway embankment. For the last few nights the Comet has been climbing alongside the constellations Orion and Taurus, but it was really only last night that it escaped the polluting skyglow from Norwich. A short search revealed it as a greenish glowing smudge to the west of that jewel-like cluster of stars, the Pleiades or Seven-Sisters. As we watched the frost nipped our fingers, but we felt some connection, no matter how distant, with cold space.

The frost lasted well into the morning. As I walked the (well wrapped) whippets along the railway line, a female Sparrowhawk leapt from the hedge. She carried a victim gripped in her talons and made her way to the relative sanctuary of the Blackthorns. We followed slowly and a hundred yards further on, she once again took flight. In that characteristic ground hugging way of theirs, she powered along before turning sharply through a narrow hedge gap and was gone. The colder weather nearly always brings with it closer encounters with predators. Driven by hunger they discard their innate caution and grab every opportunity, no matter how close to us. Further on, a smaller tiercel (male) Sparrowhawk swiftly leaves its vantage point in Bill’s front garden Cherry Tree and heads for the marshes. It is not only the Blue Tits that bird tables attract.

17th January 2015

The marsh in midwinter

December 29, 2014

Midwinter on the marsh. This morning’s sharp frost, a low sun and the chill threat of showers sweeping in from the north, combine to colour and etch the landscape. A section of a rainbow briefly touches the Mill Marsh as a brief squall washes in. A Kestrel is mobbed by a Crow and I hear the high pitched call of an unseen Kingfisher. The river runs high in its banks and the pool below the sluice does not look at all inviting. The dogs and I are thankful for the frost which has made out progress much easier over the muddy well-used river path.

By the time we reach the Common, the sun has raised the air temperature as long as we keep out of the wind. Moles have pockmarked the drier sections of river bank, but the soke dykes are full and the drains are running. Just below the horizon sun picks out the colours of cottages.

A crystal clear starlit night gives way to the morning garden etched by frost. The air feels fresh and welcoming as we walk out with the dogs. A Woodpecker’s rhythmic drumming resonates from the old oak at the top of the hill. This creates the feeling of anticipation – Spring may be some way off, but it is expected. Territories have to be established, defended and trumpeted. At this time of the year there is little noise to compete with the intermittent rattle that Woodpeckers can generate – at times there appears to be an echo, another bird drums it’s answer. The two birds swap percussion until one flies off in that curious bounding way to another tree, another territory.