The Fieldfares and some other winter visitors have left. Winter migrants are clearly moving north as Spring advances upon them. Only yesterday, as we left the hospital at the end of evening visiting, the gentle flight call notes of swans drifted down. It was, for once a clear starlit night and we watched a formation of nine Bewick’s Swans as they passed serenely in line-astern overhead. Their whiteness somewhat colour-washed by the light pollution from the east of the city. Their calls contrasting with the monotonous hum of the city. They were heading intently north eastwards, responding to the call of the Russian tundra.
Dawn in Mid-February
Dawn on a Sunday in mid-February arrived in a grey pall. A frost has etched its way through the garden and the air was still. But the sound of birdsong has gathered new strength; the Sing Thrush which has claimed an Ash tree to the west of the cottage was trading vocal blows with his rival neighbour at the Old Smithy. The dual followed strict rules. An opening five phrase repeat from one bird was followed by a pause and a response from the other. Their notes filled with the vigour and meaning as the serious business of territorial claims were reinforced. In the background Robins and Wrens added their own vocals. On the ground Snowdrops continue to flower and the early Daffodils venture forth with the yellow heralds trumpet.
BRAMPTON BIG TIDY UP – 23rd February 2013
The Brampton Big Tidy Up, our big effort to litter pick at then end of Winter, will take place on Saturday 23rd February. We would very much welcome your help. It would take roughly one and a half hours of your time. Ideally, teams of two will attend and take a set route within the Parish litter picking as they go. We meet at Brampton Village Hall at 11.00 a.m on Saturday 23rd February. If tou can attend please speak to or email Mark Little.
Chill February wind – Winter prepares to leave
Sunday morning and a chill westerly wind cast a thin veil of ice on the puddles. After yesterday’s glimpses of sunshine the weather had reverted back to a gloomy chill-ridden morning. On the stubble field, alongside the railway line, a large flock of Fieldfares – perhaps a hundred strong – fled at our approach. Flying low and for a short distance they kept a respectable distance from us. Their ‘chuck-chuck’ calls revealing their nervousness. I wondered whether the flock size was a pre-migration gathering, but their leaving is probably some time off yet.
The wind whipped along the river Mermaid. A few Woodpigeon, curved their aerial path against the breeze. A Buzzard set its wings and soared just above tree height; a relaxed but string-less kite. Its rich rufous plumagewas illuminated in the thin morning light. After a short while, with a barely perceptible adjustment it alighted in the old ash tree. A Magpie landed nearby a mobbed the Buzzard from a branch a few yards away. Further on, another flock, this time Redwings, fled at our passing. The Winter, we feel, is slipping away.
Hail from a passing squall stung our faces as we walked upstream from Oxnead. A reminder that we cannot take the arrival of the weak Spring sunshine for granted. As we pressed on the clouds moved southwards and the sun light broke through and created a dramatic contrast. Colour leaped from the highlighted trees and the shapes of their bare winter crowns gained new depth. Around the village the variety of trees gives texture to the landscape. a sycamore, so often damned as a species, shows as a beautiful dome marking the edge of the ploughed lands and the start of the marsh. A Scots Pine sits over a gentle curve of the Bure, its reflection set with the pristine clarity of a Japanese print. Below the Hall Beech, Oak and the spiralling bark of the Chestnut provide an arboretum’s grandeur.
Thaw and reflection
The weather softens after a fortnight of snow and frosts.But the hard spell that we have just experienced served to expose the variety of wildlife within the parish. Hunger and the serious business of courtship pushed dog fox and vixen into the daylight. The urban fox has become a common sight in Norwich, but the country fox is a a much more wary creature altogether. Their travels and territories are defined by river and railway line and the thaw releases the strong scent in many places. A sharp frosty starlit night is punctuated by their barks and screams as boundaries are set.
Elsewhere, Jenny reports whole families of hunting otter in the early morning light. On the arable fields the destructive power of foraging Roe Deer show up as snowy excavations. Teal spring out from out from under the reed fringed bank of the Bure and Grey Geese graze on the whatever passes for exposed vegetation on the Common. In the garden flocks of finches cluster in a frenzy of shuttle visits around the feeders. The wintering Little Egret manage to contrast in shades of white with the decaying snow.
A short burst of sunshine and the presence of Celandines, Snowdrops and the early shoots of Daffodils in the churchyard promise the approach of Spring. The colour green seems to suddenly return from the overnight thaw.
Looking forward in mid January
In mid January I am looking for change. Having ushered the new year in, I always feel it is time to look for those hints that Spring is not so far away. Last weekend the majestic wind blown song from an Oxnead Mistle Thrush sufficed.
Yesterday, the resonant drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a Brampton Hall Oak echoed along the Bure. It is a sound that I always connect with the emergence of Daffodils and the stirring of Primroses. Indeed, in the churchyard, the first leaves of some of the wild stock daffodils are inching above the sward. Even in that state they manage to lift away that winter feeling.
I nervously take a look at the beehives. Nervously, because they had a tough year in 2012 and there must always be question marks over the quality and quantity of their food reserves. I am encouraged that the clusters of each the colonies seem to be making the right noise as I tidy up around the hives. But there is a long way to go yet and the losses are often later in the winter or into the early spring, so we have sugar solution ready in reserve for that point in time.