A quiet morning in the village. Hardly a breath of wind and an overcast sky – calm and more settled weather as predicted by yesterday’s fiery sunset. As we walk back to the cottage, a flight of 25 Golden Plover sail overhead in formation, their gentle whistling call drifting down. These Plovers are regular visitors en route during their spring and autumn migrations. They always seem to choose the same fields on which inch to congregate, presumably for the safety derived from their relative height, size and aspect. Their numbers fluctuate as parties arrive and leave but their collective visit extends to weeks rather than days. On many occasions, as I lay in bed during a clear moonlit night, their whistling calls remind me of the tundra and their northern origins
Golden horde arrives
As I walk out along the old railway line, the waxing half moon hangs in the sky above Jupiter and Venus. The planets measure out a gentle tilting line arcing down to the south west. Above the evening hum of tyre noise from the Aylsham Road comes the unmistakeable whistle of a Golden Plover. These wading birds are much given to night flights, they probably migrate during the dark hours. Their arrival locally is a clear signal of the gathering momentum of Spring. For as many years as I can remember they have gathered on the same few arable fields to the south of us. They appear to use this as a staging post during their Autumn and Spring migrations. If I lay in bed awake on a moonlit night at migration time their whistles regularly drift through the open window
from somewhere in the night sky. Their journey north will eventually end on their nesting grounds on Arctic tundra, but for a short while they take the soft Norfolk air whilst refuelling and waiting for that moment when it is right to press on.
Sunset on Friday coincided with the evening arrival of a congregation of Golden Plover. A circling flock of forty or so birds whistled in their plaintive way. Every year they gather on the parish – I have always assumed that it is a traditional stopping place on their way south, but their stay is often a prolonged one. It is of course impossible to be certain whether we see the same flock for a number of weeks or whether we sit on a migration route and thus see many flocks passing through.
The call is unmistakeable. They often fly by starlight and their contact calls drift down from unseen groups. Surprisingly they do not seem to favour low lying pasture land as a roosting site, instead they select higher (height being entirely relative) arable fields alongside the old roman road. I like to imagine that this location has been favoured for a
long time, perhaps centuries, as it is a site offering good views and resultant protection from predators.