• Groups

    The Roe group this evening consisted of the older buck and two does. I doubt that this is a permanent change but it could show the looser ties which bind the herd as a result of the arrival of the younger buck. I wonder whether the young buck has been driven away and has taken the others with him. This can only be conjecture. I will continue to watch and take notes.

    It may be coincidence but the smaller group seems to be more nervous. They stay close to the sanctuary of the woodland edge and are vigilant. They don’t react to every noise or scent which drifts in their direction but they remain watchful. Perhaps this is the young buck and his splinter group. It is almost impossible to tell without the two males side by side.

  • Father & son

    Father and son rivalry is back in the parish. The return of grass growth over the past week has drawn the Roe deer out of their winter quarters.

    Last year’s offspring have turned out to be, as I suspected, one of each sex. The young buck, with this year’s antlers still covered in velvet, is annoying his father just by being there. In the soft morning light, the youngster generally keeps a respectful distance, but when he strays too close his father runs at him making him jink, swerve and put a few more yards in between. Over the next few weeks both bucks will scratch the velvet from their antlers and the competition will start in earnest. It will be interesting to see how long the youngster is tolerated within the family group.

  • Arrivals

    A Swallow twittered and dashed around the buildings of Brampton Hall on the evening of Friday 15th April. Possibly not the first arrival, but the first I have seen in the parish this spring.

    Only a matter of days before the Cuckoo calls for the first time – hopefully next Saturday morning 23rd, but I am sure someone will hear one sooner..

  • Repetition

    The Song Thrush is the master of the dawn chorus at this time of the year. The Blackbird tends to favour the evening chorus, presumably because of child-rearing duties.

    This Thrush uses repetition as the main theme of its song. A verse consists of short passages of repeated notes, perhaps three of five of them at a time. Each verse itself appears in a repeated cycle and it is very challenging to try and spot the pattern of cycling phrases. At dawn this morning I had a go, but soon lost the trail. So I have decided that careful sound recording is the only way to do it. Mobile phones have a very basic facility for recording, so this is my next challenge – hopefully more analysis in future blog entries.

  • Blackthorn Bloom

    Blackthorn bloom along the Bure
  • Wave of blossom

    It is at this point where all of those time- lapse natural history films come to mind. We watched the welcome early bursts of cherry blossom, which first lit up the hedges a fortnight ago or so, which have been replaced by a breaking wave of Blackthorn. All along the railway line each hour of warmth persuades more blossom to burst. The newly arrived Warblers now start to fit in with those illustrations that you find in coffee table style bird books.

    Amongst the trees the Hawthorn and the Sycamore have reached bud-burst. The Oak and the Ash, ever the laggards, are not far behind.

    At the cottage, the Barn Owl has morphed into a garden bird – at least late at night. Wednesday night was punctuated by their rough screeches.

  • Spring song

    The cacophony of bird song is moving to a higher level. This Sunday mornings’ spring sunshine has introduced new songs. The complicated and attractive songs of two more of the Warbler family are now part of the soundscape. They sing as if they have been doing so for weeks, but this really is the beginning of their spring campaign. The Blackcap is the first of them ; from a position deep within the gardens towards the church the powerful song is a full throated tuneful whistle with a characteristic ending (which I can only write as suey suey suey sue..). Almost Nightingale like in its intensity, but with less of the master’s variety.

    The second is the Garden Warbler, another complicated song, this time from the anonymous depth of a bramble patch on the railway line. This morning’s effort was more a sub-song, a practice effort following a long journey whilst the confidence is being built for the real thing.

    As I sit to write this and unusual call for Brampton drifts across the railway line – this is the unmistakeable “keeyow” of a Buzzard. Yet to be seen, but now anticipated.

  • On not being grey

    The Stock Dove is not nondescript – although generally described as grey. But as I spotted the Bridge pair as I drove into to Norwich, it struck me how subtle their colouration really is.

    On each side of the neck a splash of verdigris, that copper pipe green, which is at this time of the year almost jewel-like in its intensity. The bird’s chest has that blush of pink that is so characteristic of many pigeon species. The wing and the back are a uniform grey which is nicely set off by the soot black wing-tips. In flight they stick together in a simple formation wherever they go. Their black wingtips show up a clear wing fringe edging.

    The Bridge pair has been concentrating on colonising the girders which support the railway bridge on the Buxton Road. There seem very few ledges but this is their favoured spot.

  • Surfing the Spring

    As a song it would win no prizes. The ‘song’ is a repetitive two note announcement that the trees are shortly to come into leaf. So remarkably dull is the song that the bird is named after it – what else is there to say? The Chiffchaff is a warbler, relatively nondescript with a seemingly green hue above and a paler buff coloured chest. It’s close relations such as the Blackcap and the Willow Warbler have slightly more elaborate songs which are welcome in any garden. The Chiffchaff on the other hand, sounds so disappointing and even slightly irritating.

    But the sound is welcome nevertheless. It nearly always the first summer migrant to arrive and announce itself. Early on Tuesday morning it trumpeted its arrival in Brampton. After wiling away the winter somewhere along the Mediterranean coats, perhaps in North Africa, it arrives after surfing the spring northwards. It can be heard throughout the spring, but its call is most insistent before the leaves arrive – over the next fortnight or so it will be repeating itself all over the village.

  • Beware Lords and Ladies

    Along Brampton’s verges at the moment, one plant appears to be developing faster than all of the others. This is the Cuckoo Pint or Lords and Ladies. It’s broadly arrow-shaped leaves line all the verges, but with greater concentrations on banks along the run up to the church.

    Later on in the year the plant will develop a cowled inflorescence (it cannot be called a flower) with an erect central “spadix”. It’s perceived similarity to a male organ so titillated those that observed it that it gave rise to a great number of other names of varying degrees of bawdiness; amongst these are Cows and Bulls, Wake Robin, Jack in the Pulpit, Devils and Angels, Adam and Eve, Bobbins and Naked Boys. Just take your pick. I expect that there are many more that are unpublishable.

    The fun does not stop there. The berries which the plant develops in the autumn are bitter and cause great irritation if eaten. They are reputedly one of the most common reasons for admission to A & E for accidental plant poisoning. One seventeenth century herbalist recommends grating some of the root over meat offered to an unwelcome dinner guest in order to send him packing. This does seem a bit severe and should not be encouraged at the dinner parties of Brampton.

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