As I write, I can look up to see a garden full of finches. The visiting flock of Bramblings, which varies in number from a dozen to a score of birds, has been a daily site, along with the regular Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Chaffinches. The snow is dirty and on the verge of a thaw. The various feeders of Niger and sunflower seed, peanuts and a wheat based mix have become a hub for the hard-pressed bird population. Outside the garden two neighbouring farms have established almost twenty acres of winter bird food crops and these have harboured large flocks of Linnet and Yellowhammers; their flocks often of 40-80 strong, perhaps more. If ever I wanted to demonstrate the value of supplementary feeding, this is the place and the time.
Brampton wildlife: Finches in the snow
Brampton Spring: annual Litter Pick
The annual Brampton Litter Pick has become such an established event within the village calendar that we have started to treat it as the ‘first sign of spring’. Although, as I write this on the next day, Sunday, in which one can almost ‘bask’ in spring sunshine, the slightly duller Saturday weather still favoured all those who gave a voluntary hour to the task.
It is sad fact that we still need to do this every year in order to maintain the beauty of our surroundings, but it gives us all an excuse (not that an excuse is really needed) to get together for collective task.
‘It is like that we are clearing up after a few serial litter louts. The theme is generally the same. Lager cans of a particular brand, containers for a well-know fast food supplier, dog poo bags left hanging in the hedges (As if that was considered as “clearing up”).
Anyway, job done. Thanks to everyone who participated. The parish looks ready for the warmer weather.
Brampton winter – gathering flocks
The frosts of mid to late January have changed the habits of the parish wildlife. The most marked change being the flocking of the birds. The Woodpigeons gather into gangs, but most noticeable of all are the large flocks of finches. The finch flocks – consisting mainly of Chaffinchs, Greenfinches, Bramblings, Goldfinches and Linnets – gravitate to the fields planted for this very purpose at the south end of the village. The farm’s conservation scheme, ‘Wild Bird Cover’, consists of a special mix of seed-bearing plants, and it is working. On a fine clear Saturday morning I counted 60 in one flock perched atop the hedgerow trees whilst another, half as big, wheeled round above. A good example of successful farm-based conservation.
Frosty clear nights echo with the calls of courting foxes. One evening this week a dog fox called as it ran done the village street making all the dogs jump from their slumber.
Brampton winter: morning hawk
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.
Brampton winter: Fieldfares & Redwings
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.
‘The next week, the Hawthorns are stripped. All but the outermost berries have been taken.
Brampton: Autumn and the Michaelmas arrivals
Over the last few days the evening has arrived with golden sunset. It feels like a time of change – the last Swallows skimmed the last stubble of the harvest a few days ago, before heading south. The autumn migrants have arrived from the north.
It was last Wednesday evening, whilst accompanied by a post-hopping Barn Owl, that we heard this year’s Golden Plover. Their plaintive whistling calls carry to us, above even the traffic noise along the Buxton Road. It was twilight, the sunset had been spectacular and darkness was falling fast. Every year flocks of Golden Plover rest for a few days on tawny arable fields above the old Roman Road. We could hear their calls but their restless flocks were invisible.
This morning’s clear skies, after a light frost, rendered the chance of seeing them altogether better. Looking south we soon spotted the flock of about fifty birds, their silhouette unmistakable – on knife-shaped wings they wheeled and turned, in synchrony their colours alternating dark and pale as they flew. Flying for fun, circling and settling before setting off again. All the time their whistles carrying down to us, earthbound.
Event: Talk – Coypu, Mink and the Norfolk Mink Project
Simon Baker, from the Norfolk Mink Project, will be giving a talk at the Burgh Reading Room on Tuesday 9th October at 7.00pm. All are welcome and entry is free. (See http://burghlife.co.uk)
Mink have been active on the Bure for some time. They have become naturalized on English rivers having originally escaped, or have been let loose from, fur farms many years ago. They are an efficient predator and will kill everything they can catch – fish, birds, mammals such as Water Voles and inverterbrates. If a mix of wildlife is to survive on the Bure, the Mink need to be controlled. This is where the Norfolk Mink Project plays a role.
Background information: https://thenorfolkminkproject.org.uk
Last sight of the summer falcon
It was almost the last weekend of the summer – August 25th. The Swifts were long gone and family groups of Swallows were feeding low over long meadow. The next day they had left for the south.
Just as I walked down the old track from Brampton to Oxnead, I spotted the unmistakeable profile of a falcon just over Keeper’s Wood. Its flight was erratic. Just at treetop height, interspersed with rapid spiraling changes of direction. I had seen this before – a Hobby hunting for dragonflies. With ease and grace it flew west to east along the spine of the wood and back again before disappearing from site towards the Ash Plantation. The whole show lasting no more than a couple of minutes.
Later that day, whilst walking along the railway line and admiring the sunset, a dragonfly – a Southern Hawker, I think – was diligently hunting midges and other small flying insects. Its flight path formed a triangular pattern, broken only by rapid spiralling changes of direction as it homed in on its prey. The similarity with that of the falcon, the next step up the food chain, was remarkable.
Evening falls in the village
At the end of a hot July day, we sit outside with glasses in hand. To sit and watch the night fall is a simple pleasure, but one of which we never tire.
A Barn Owl which skims the roof and garden trees, is intent on hunting – its call breaks the falling silence. Bats appear. Pipistrelles and, we assume, Long-Eared Bats. Each following a circuit of widening spirals. An ultrasound bat-detector helps us follow their course – their call speeding up as they home-in on an insect.
The moon, not yet full but waxing and large in the southern sky, sails in solitary splendour over the ash trees which edge the old rail line. Minute by minute stars start to appear. We check their names and constellations. Vega seems to be the first, balanced at the head of Lyra. Then all of sudden, many more follow. Just before ten o’clock a bright spot arcing past the Moon turns out to be the International Space Station on it’s first visible pass of the night.
Our attention turns to the satellites, a man-made intrusion in to the natural view, but wonderful for all of that. Their names create their own poetry – SEASAT, ERBS, Integral, Genesis II.
On a more earthly theme, toads shuffle around the flower pots.
Brampton: summer visitors
Swifts, those short-term summer visitors, from their screaming party over the Brampton rooftops. Eight..ten birds, they move so fast and change acrobatic so quickly that it is hard to keep track. I make a mental note to create some nest boxes for next year’s visit – every roof-improvement, each addition of roof insulation in the cottages serving to remove another traditional nest site. For the village not to host these visitors would be sad indeed.