• January

    Clear skies and a starlit night are followed by four degrees of frost. The Bure has returned to a reasonable flow after being starved of supply during the cold snap.

    A morning stroll by the river merely serves to emphasise the flocking behaviour of birds at this time of year. Virtually everything we see is clustered in a flock; Woodpigeon, gulls, Starling, Jackdaws and Mallard. Small flights of Teal circle nervously and head off for quieter areas. The only exception being a solitary Great Crested Grebe which was fishing near Burgh Mill; a Grebe in it’s dowdy Winter garb – just passing through. I am happy to note the lack of Cormorants today – in my view an unwelcome guest in the area – their fishing puts such pressure on stocks.

    Neil talks of Otter sightings. The signs are there, fishy spraint and what I like to imagine are mud slides into the river, but once again the short day length cuts down the chances of a proper sighting. Clumps of Blackthorn near the river provide ideal cover.

  • Thaw

    A flight of Wigeon are temporary winter visitors to the island. Their plaintive whistling calls are the clearest signs of their presence – but the bold white wing markings on the males are confirmation enough. They flock in their thousands along the marshy Norfolk coast or along the lower reaches of the Yare, but this was nothing but a small foraging party. The thaw has set in has perhaps there are early pickings for wild duck along the Bure.

    The thaw has also released the scent of the fox from it’s frozen state. There are many hot spots which are seemingly important in the regular route. We will have to wait for the frosty starlit nights in order to listen to her territorial screams – such sounds do not carry in the wet misty and damp conditions which prevail.

  • An arctic walk

    An arctic walk – still -10 degrees – the Bure steams
  • 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.

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