As Summer gives way to the onset of Autumn, the noise of Rooks and Jackdaws becomes the sound marker for dawn. Weeks have elapsed since we heard the last of the dawn choruses of early Summer. Now, it is bird movement which gives rise to noise – Rooks leaving their roosts call to one another as they stream towards the stubble fields and freshly cultivated land. The Jackdaws seem to treat this event as a joyride. In contrast to the steady purposeful flight of the Rooks, the Jackdaws swoop and sport in small groups whilst calling in a loud cacophony.
Dawn in Late August
Brampton Spring, or is it Summer: in the garden
The Anglo-Saxons, who felt the changing year more keenly than we do, referred to 9th May as the beginning of Summer. (For a more expert view I recommend the blog A Clerk of Oxford http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/summer-sun-brightest-anglo-saxon-summer.html ). So often I find myself agreeing with the Anglo-Saxon view. Rogationtide, that three day run up to Ascension Day, starts tomorrow and fits neatly into the turning of the seasonal calendar.
I am sitting in the garden as I write. From time to time a shower of Cherry blossom drifts down – not caused by “rough winds” but by a gentle breeze that stirs the top branches, before dying down again. A Blackbird sings from a nearby fir, a Blackcap from the copse, Swifts scream whilst twisting and turning overhead. The strong insistent song of a Wren bursts out just before it dives into its nest, tucked in the porch rafters. Rather worryingly for the garden, Woodpigeons have taken up residence within striking distance of the young Sweet Peas. But their mellifluous repetitive song just adds to the meditative atmosphere of the garden.
The Cuckoo has been silent in the valley for three days since announcing its arrival last Thursday. I have noticed this before – a settling in period, before the period of persistent song arrives in earnest. When they do get going Cuckoos travel up and down the river valley and I have been lucky enough to see their nuptial flight (or their territorial battle, depending upon your interpretation), more than once at this time of the year.
Brampton Spring: good news from 7th May
May 7th, the parish Hawthorns are flowering and, as we walk to the Village Hall Polling station, a Cuckoo calls from David’s marsh. The Cuckoo is somewhat later than last year – obviously waiting on a favourable wind and warmer weather.
As we left the Hall, other summer visitors, a group of Swifts, screamed as they wheeled over the village street. This was the first real sighting of these much awaited visitors, although I could have sworn that I heard one on Sunday 3rd May.
Brampton Spring: the first of the Swallows
One warm blast if southerly air – a so called Spanish Plume – and the summer visitors start to arrive. On Saturday morning (11th April) a single Swallow hawked and chattered its way around the Long Meadow, along the River Mermaid and the barn roofs of Brampton Hall. This evening (Tuesday) a Blackcap sang from deep within the Blackthorn bank thus adding a bit of variety in song to its Warbler relative, the Chiffchaff, which was an earlier arrival.
Brampton Spring: new arrivals
The slight southerly shift in the wind and the Chiff-Chaffs have arrived, the little summer warbler is not the greatest of songsters – the full extent of their song gives them their name. But they are generally the first of the Sumer visitors to arrive. We were “serenaded” as we walked up Common Lane on Friday 27th March and more arrived and started singing eleswhere over the next two days or so.
Now we wait for the Blackcaps, Willow and Garden Warblers – they should not be too far behind.
Brampton Spring: the Mistle Thrush
For me, the song of few birds symbolise the end of Winter and the impending arrival of Spring more than that of the Mistle Thrush. This morning the village was engulfed in that wild, wind blown song. The singer was perched high in the old Ash. The song seemed designed to float and carry on the breeze – a breeze which still carried the edge of Winter on it. As we approached the Thrush moved to one of the hill Oaks, his song did not pause but gathered in intensity as he settled on the utmost stag-headed branch. Around the base of the tree the Daffodil buds seemed to be on the verge of opening – drawn out by the Thrush’s call.
Brampton Spring: March dawn chorus
The dawn chorus is in its early incarnation. Not yet bolstered by the arrival of summer migrants, it consist mainly of Robins, Blackbirds and a Woodpigeon backing group. Occasionally the sporadic, short and loud bursts of a Wren joins in. It is not yet properly light. Minutes later some more Blackbirds start their song and the chorus take on the air of a singing contest. A fluting call from the Old Post Office garden; an answer from the copse; an interloper from the railway line – a circle of debate and challenge reaches a pitch and then dies away. The Robins open up again. Short songs and a deliberate pause to listen for challenges, a resumption and then silence. A repeated pattern until the business of the day has to begin.
Before dawn the only sounds are the fall of leaves in the light breeze and the distant call of a Fox. Later as the first light arrives the variety of sounds increase. Birdsong has settled into its Autumn pattern. Loud shouts from the Wrens. Dualling Robins. The chatter of Greenfinches and when the blue sky appears the drifting melody of the Skylark lightens the mood.
The movement of birds in flocks is becoming more marked as we reach late October. The daily commute of Rooks and Jackdaws seem to fill the shorter daylight hours. Arrowing groups of Starlings head somewhere with purpose. Finches raid the bird table in noisy clusters. Golden Plover continue to stop over mid-migration. As we walk to the allotment on Sunday morning, a flock of a hundred or so circle overhead calling with a light whistling call which drifts on the breeze. The ocassional clear starlit night will assist their onward progress southwards.
Visitors from the Arctic tundra call in to Brampton
This morning a plaintive whistling drifted down from a hundred-strong flock of Golden Plover. They circled over the Town Field and banked towards their favoured ground. Each Autumn and Spring they call In for a brief respite on their migration from the Arctic tundra to their African wintering quarters. Always the same place. Nearly always at the same time. Their contact calls can be heard on clear starlit nights as they reconvene in ever larger flocks. A little piece of the wild north drifts through the village with a promise of cooling air.