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.
Jilly and Piet prepare to travel back to the 1940’s (To the Sheringham 1940’s Weekend), although from Brampton in 2018 – perhaps not such large leap after all…!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
After what seemed like a very long wait, the Cuckoo has arrived in the valley. Announcing its arrival with a rapid succession of calls at 4.50am from a perch on a tree somewhere along the Bure.
For many years the Cuckoo has arrived in the last week in April. The delay this year due to the cold spring that we have had. Last year it was not heard until 25th May, so we could count this one at least as “earlier than last year”. The British Trust for Ornithology tracks transmitter tagged Cuckoos every year, these can be seen via the following weblink; https://www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies/cuckoo-tracking
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’s hedges and lanes are clear of litter in time for the Spring again. Thanks to all the volunteers for their efforts – some particularly notable ones including Richard Berry’s monster haul of Fosters Lager cans, as well as enough car bumpers and trim to rebuild a car. We were blessed with fine weather, which went some way towards making this, sadly necessary, task more bearable.
Equipment at the ready (thanks to Broadland DC for the loan)
A selection of the volunteer litter picker army.