• Saturday morning Magpie

    A single Magpie takes up a sentinel like pose at the top of a Wild Cherry tree. The Cherry tree marks what we assume to be the on the edge of the old Roman shore. Before the Mill owners a and Dutch engineers contained of the Bure in it’s current course, this would have been the edge of marshy ground. The Magpie is surveying the country and from this position it cover a wide sweep of the Bure, grazing marshes, the village and the swell of rising ground towards Limekiln Farm. A rattling call sees it loop off in search of some unknown morsel.

    The Roe Deer are conspicuous by their absence. An hour after dawn and there is no sign. Perhaps the declining feed value of the grass near the Belt Wood has made them concentrate on other sources. The only reports I have are of Muntjac skulking around the sugar beet at Oxnead.

  • November deer

    The Roe group are fit and well – the doe and the two well grown fawns quietly graze on the fallow near the Belt Wood at first light on All Hallows day. The bulkier of the two fawns is clearly a male and this is shown in the way he moves – the youngster has presence.

    Watching deer really extends your knowledge of descriptive terms. These is the case for any creature which is a quarry species such as deer, or are used in hunting as with falconry.

    Their coats or pelage clearly show a dark chocolate strip along the top of their backs grading down to a rich tawny brown along their flanks. The underside of their lower jaw or the gorget is picked out with two white marks.. The white rumps which are very marked and seem to act as the group’s visual signal to each other are, rather depressingly, known as the target.

  • Clear morning and a Sparrowhawk – 24th October

    A morning of clarity – the air fresh and the tree lined horizon without a hint of haze to interrupt the colour. The northerly wind of the early morning had seemed to polish the atmosphere. The Bure was relatively quiet, with very little activity along the river. Susan and Sarah appeared in the distance tending a horse a pasture.

    The only bird noise being the circus clown-like honk of Egyptian Geese, a sound which does not fit into the soft mix of a river valley morning.

    A squelching approach to the footbridge over the Mermaid River drew the sudden appearance of a Sparrowhawk. Bursting from a riverside thorn, she carried the deadweight of a recent victim. The unidentifiable lifeless grey bundle held tight and the strain of flight showing in her splayed wind feathers. Not too heavy to fly some distance, disappearing through the Oak trees to the Pightle.

  • An accidental death

    The clear signs of a dead deer on the Oxnead road created a frisson of concern. Firstly the collision with a deer is not just a little accident in the car – Deer such as Muntjac weigh in at 30 lbs. or so, a Roebuck perhaps twice that; certainly enough to do considerable damage to both vehicle and beast. Once I had put these thoughts out of my head, I started to wonder. Was it one of the Roe fawns whose progress I had been following or was it perhaps a wandering Muntjac?

    The only way to find out with any degree of certainty would be to do a head count. So on Friday morning at first light the dogs and I walked up to the Belt. The air was sharp with the first of this autumn’s frosts. It was relatively dark, the full moon was providing what help it could but still the gloom prevailed. I spotted a lone doe from the Buxton Road Bridge. This in itself was unusual. This doe was flighty. It seemed to be resting a back leg and I could have sworn that the off-side hind leg had a dark stain at the joint. It made its way quietly along the hedge line towards the wood, grazing at brief pauses as it went. My imagination started to run – perhaps this was the survivor of a road accident sustained by the group.

    Something made me to walk on a little further. After about fifty yards I spotted another deer, this time to the south of the railway line. The wind was against me so I kept moving closer. As I got closer, I was relieved to spot a couple more deer in a close group. This was, without doubt, the Roe doe and the two fawns. Their coats were already a rich dark brown – the orange coats of summer already replaced and ready for the winter. Seemingly unconcerned they continued grazing, with only the movement of their large ears betraying the fact that they knew I was there. I turned and left them to it.

  • Scandinavians are back

    Winter visitors continue to arrive. This, the first week of October has seen the arrival of the Redwings – that small thrush which spends it’s summers in Scandinavia and it’s winters in the UK.

    At first they are extremely shy. Their insipid high pitched “sip” call and a retreating shadow is often all you see as you walk along the Bure Valley railway line. When they have gorged themselves on the rich berry harvest for a few days, they seem to relax and gain confidence and become less wary.

    Another elusive Winter visitor is the Golden Plover. Brampton is a temporary home to large flock in October and again in the Spring.

    I have always assumed that this is a Plover staging post whilst they on their way south and back again; always the same fields. The give away is the whistling tuneful call – they are known locally as the Whistling Plover. They fly at a reasonable height in small groups and call to one another as they go. They are still moving around when it is dark and this is often the first sign that one catches. My first of the Autumn was early on Sunday morning, a little after 6 a.m – a plaintive but tuneful note.

  • Mid October Deer

    The deer have been keeping themselves to themselves, until this last week. The doe and the two fauns have been out of the Belt Wood in the early mornings on at least three occasions in the week. The two fauns are now well grown, probably about three-quarters of the size of the doe. Whether it is the same doe with the maternal instincts it is impossible to tell. The group which they have formed appears to be a strong one. They are watchful and seem to keep on the move to en extent. Grazing on the fallow and near the wood, they drift effortlessly through the hedge to Mr Crane’s meadows when there suspicions are aroused. It appears to me that one of the fauns is more heavily built than the other, perhaps a male, but they turn and I doubt my instincts.

  • Buzzard – Fine morning after rain

    Clear mornings following a night of rain are the best conditions for Brampton. That is, if you want to spot Barn Owls or other birds of prey in or around the village; this morning, the middle Saturday of October, being a good example. Rain pelted down on and off until around eight o’clock. Soon afterwards the skies cleared again and a gentle easterly breeze settled down under blue skies – the clouds were the benign cumulus that drifted by without the threat of further rain.

    At this time birds which have been hunkered down suddenly feel the need to move. Woodpigeon fly purposefully in all different directions and certainly without a group plan. But the Barn Owls and other predators hunt with purpose.

    At Brampton Church the normally playful Jackdaws were in serious mood. They, who mostly see to be intent on joy riding and acrobatics rather than any serious purpose, were escorting a Buzzard away from their territory with the same intent that the aircraft from Coltishall used to escort Russian spy planes. Common Buzzards are becoming increasingly regular sightings in this part of Norfolk – their territory gradually expanding for the midlands. This one did not seem to worried by the attention and circled away to the north. It is possible that it will adopt the river valley temporarily.


  • Oxnead Bats

    Standing in the dark and the rain near Oxnead Bridge could be classified as suspicious behaviour. It is an early October evening and the weather is very autumnal. Roz, Alex and I were standing there listening to bats. Daubenton’s Bats, we think.

    This had all come about as a result of a birthday present. As a bookworm with a serious addiction, Roz had decided to branch out (in search of variety) for my undeserved birthday present. A bat detector was the result. In effect a listening device which converts higher register so they are audible to the human ear. This has led to a lot of night walks.

    The old railway line is good hunting ground – plenty of Pipistrelles amongst the trees which border the route. But it is the river bats that are most fascinating. They hunt just above the surface, their sonic calls converted to a machine-gun like tick which speeds up as prey is approached. Surprisingly wet October evenings are quite productive. With the aid of a torch their long winged route could be followed for a short while in each direction as they followed their regular route. It felt like we had discovered a new dimension – albeit a damp one.

  • Winter geese

    At this time of year the key to watching wildlife is to look up and scan the skies. The summer visitors have gone and it is arrival time for the winter migrants. I think it is Brampton’s proximity to the River Bure that puts it in the flight path for migrating birds.

    It is Michaelmas and Wednesday morning bought the first skein of wild geese over the village – or at least the first one that I have spotted so far. Geese fly in the characteristic V-formation skein and this one was heading north for some reason, presumably in search of freshly harvested sugar beet fields. The skein itself was tightly formed by roughly 40 geese, although jostling for position at the back had led to the start of a “W”, albeit temporarily. It was the calls of the geese that grabbed the attention, a very musical yelping like a pack of hounds out for a morning run. You can hear why they are referred to as Gabriel’s Hounds in some parts of England.

    The Brampton skein sounded like to me like Pink Footed Geese, which is a species which spends its winters in North Norfolk, but Grey Geese are easily confused and they may have been some of the Bean Geese which winter in the Yare Valley. I will concentrate more next time.

  • Owls

    As the nights draw in, the owls are in the ascendant. Throughout the summer, the Barns Owls have been the most regularly seen – their buoyant, effortless hunting flight and creamy colour marking them out. A number of pairs hunt over the river meadows. Their territories are large and often seem to overlap one another.  Individuals become recognisable – there is a large mostly white (presumably) female which seems to have been about for several seasons and she contrasts with the male which is both smaller and boats a richer caramel and cream combination. Last night in the car, we approached a Barn Owl drinking from a puddle in the road – obviously unaware of our presence, it lifted off effortlessly and into the darkness over Mr Crane’s meadows.

    In the late September evenings the Tawny Owls start to call more to define their home territory. The separate calls of “kew-ick “ from the female in the dead Elm at the top of the hill being answered by the “hu..oooo” of the male. They rarely appear during the daylight hours – I only usually find them when I follow the occasional cacophony of Jays and Blackbirds when they ‘mob’ the sleeping owl into evasive action (and in many cases they are mobbing a cat not an owl).

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