The arrival of young Grey Squirrels in the garden has been a recent highlight for the whippets. The young Greys are vandals of the first order. Only the anti-squirrel bird feeder has survived their ingenious robbery. But they are thorough and they cannot resist picking up the last spilled kernel from the ground. This is what the whippets wait for. A marauding dash through garden furniture and other obstacles to the foot of the tree. The squirrels escape, but they always climb to such a height that seems to infer that dogs might be able to climb trees one day.
Young Greys in the garden
Cuckoo’s last hurrah
June has proved to be such a changeable month. There is no pattern in the weather. Nothing is settled. This is reflected in the behaviour of birds. On Monday morning, for example, the fine early morning was heralded by the constant call of the Cuckoo. And not from just one direction – the calls seemed to be from Oxnead at one minute, from the Town field the following and from Burgh the next. At the time is sounded like a last hurrah and since then it’s calls have been absent or at the very most sporadic. My suspicion is that the job is done and the Cuckoo must now concentrate on building up energy again for the long trip south. This is not so far away.
Flight of the Summer falcon: For me Summer of 2012 ended at 8.45 on 2nd September.
For me Summer of 2012 ended at 8.45 on 2nd September. The swallows were gathering in groups around Hall barns. Further down Church Lane a single Swallow circled the doctor’s house uttering an urgent hawk-alarm call. Looking up we spotted the cause of it’s concern, a falcon was in the vicinity and was climbing the thermal-free air. The effort was obvious; with wing beats which reminded my of a trapped butterfly against a window pane, the falcon worked to gain height in a wide upward spiral. It was surely reaching for height, seeking the support of a constant breeze.
The Hobby is a summer visitor and this year it’s electrifying presence had been very evident. A hunting territory seemingly centring on the village with it’s plentiful food supply. But now it was time to go – probably to follow the favoured prey species, the Martins, Swallows and Dragonflies. The cooler night air was already encouraging their departure and the Hobby must follow suit.
I followed the falcon’s progress. As it crossed the orb of the Sun, it started to diminish to a dot and eventually melted into the upper air.
This morning the Bure was beautifully transparent. Many Brown Hawker dragonflies hunt in the air around us as we glide downstream. At the confluence with King’s Beck, a Kingfisher called and whirred its way past us. In the river itself, groups of Whirligig Beetles live up to their name, whilst below Pike gave themselves away by the gentle flutter of their pelvic fins and the cruel stare of their hunter’s eye. At Bream Corner one large specimen hangs in the slow current as we pass by and then slips imperceptibly to the sanctuary of a deep weed bed. The Canoe Man shepherds a party of canoeists up to Oxnead – the party a picture of enjoyment and first-time exploration
This morning’s soaring temperatures have brought a welcome crop of new butterflies. On our way round with the dogs, a Buddleja at Romany Cottage was laden with newly-minted Peacock butterflies. Seemingly no more than a few days old, their wing colours are vibrant and polished. They stand out amongst the more weather-beaten Red Admirals and Commas which have been flying for some time. A single Painted Lady bustled about – possibly a migrant from the continent as the steady winds have been from a south-easterly direction for the last few days.
Buddleja and butterfly hunting
Mid August and the village street is filled with the über-sweet scent of Buddleja bushes. Several large bushes have established themselves at key points along the village street. A particularly large specimen has taken up a prime spot on the edge of then allotments, another – it’s racemes a rich pink – marks the junction with Back Lane, others are sprinkled liberally in gardens along the way. Brampton people favour Buddlejas.
The reason for this is of course, the plant’s ability to attract butterflies. Until this recently this has not been a good butterfly year, the weather has been against them, particularly earlier on. So, I am keenly looking to see whether there will be a late summer flush of butterflies. The wait has not been all in vain; the last two weeks has seen quite a few Commas on the wing – rich patterned brown with their filigree cut hind- wing, Red Admirals have been relatively abundant, but as yet no Painted Ladies. Cabbage Whites are causing anxiety on the allotment. Gatekeepers we’ve their way along the hedgerows. There have been few if any Tortoiseshells, so far.
There is still time. Hence the Buddleja watching. We wait.
Dragonflies and carnage
One flying insect group that is showing well this year are the Dragonflies. Yesterday evening a splendid Southern Hawker patrolled the Street near Common Lane and the railway line is graced with a number of other varieties. The Wide Bodied Chaser is a particular favourite. Dragonflies names mainly concentrate on the subjects hunting methods. “They do what they say on the tin”, so to speak.
A couple of years ago we watched many species as they gathered to catch a prolific outpouring of flying ants from their nests in the railway cutting. The action was brutal, graceful and mesmerising all at the same time. We sat entranced as the hunters gathered around the emerging prey, the action probably continued on into the evening after we had moved on. But only for that day, at that temperature and at that point in the ant colony’s life cycle. Thankfully some of the emerging flying ants did get away. Either the perfect aerial hunting insect has some weaknesses or they were satiated. Nature has ways of balancing the odds.
Deer arrivalsThe grass is in ear and it is probably serving to hide the newly arrived Roe Deer fauns. It has been noticeable that the female Roes have, over the last few weeks, tended to split away from their family groups.
Each one appears to have settled in an acre or two of it’s own. This is a sure sign that the fauns have either arrived or are about to do so. The expectant mothers are twitchy – if one is unintentionally disturbed it will dash away, but they seem to make such a fuss of it that it looks like distraction behaviour; clearly leading the intruder away from the central site, possibly where the faun is laid up. Luckily the local walkers are keeping their distance. It has to be said that the Roebucks are not keeping their distance – the mating season or rut
starts soon after the females have given birth – so the bucks are very attentive where allowed.
The Hobby flew down the village street at eaves height. So fast did it appear and disappear that I was left dumbfounded as I stared into its wake. The small hawk, sickle winged, jinked and swerved in its run. Its wings alternately swept back and outstretched in that fluid flight that it so characteristic of this type of hawk. I assume that the blustery conditions had forced the usual quarry – whether it be House Martins or large insects – down to street level. In any event this visit was fruitless for the hawk, but at this speed it will cover a large area and eventually successfully strike.
BRAMPTON DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS 2012
The full moon rose into the clear night sky above Low Farm as the flames took hold of
the beacon. At the required 10.01 pm the beacon had been expertly lit as the culmination to the village’s Diamond Jubilee event. It was the sort of event that Brampton does best. The mood was relaxed and friendly – an afternoon and evening mixture of party, barbecue and picnic had been going on all evening at Low Farm.
It was almost a almost a tribal gathering. Hosted by Kiwi Andy and by Jill. Andy, clearly an expert in outdoor living, conjured fire at the right moments, whether it be barbecue, fire-pit or beacon. Others had cast a little magic, Jilly and her superb cakes and a particularly potent mix of Pimms from the shed-girls. There were renewals of acquaintance and the grape vine of conversation was re-established.
Over the evening, over eighty people dropped by and most stayed until the end in order
to see the beacon lit as part of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution’s country wide chain of Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons. There was no doubt that the Brampton beacon could be seen and there was a palpable element of pride felt in taking part.
We remembered Joyce, who surely would have like to have been there. Low Farm, so
long her home with her late husband Stanley Vincent, still managed to generate memories as I walked over the mown grounds on what were once the vegetable and flower gardens of the old house.
The village has changed and become younger again, but it has somehow managed to retain something of it’s original independent spirit. They do things differently here. An event all falls in place quite naturally. Some but not too much planning and a collective effort serve to create a new memory and the parting comment that it had been “…great fun and we must do something similar next June”.
[Photos to come]