30th December, such a cracking, clear day. I walk and with purpose, breathe, and without caring see nothing other than a couched Hare. And there are such vistas, our familiar rolling vastness, a harlequin’s coat of fields and copses. And this enslaved landscape, winter shorn and comatose, sweeping away to a crisp horizon. The proud, winter sun paints gold-leaf filigree onto the crusted Ash trunks, and slayed thorn. It is astounding. It is my homeland.
29th December, I am looking at the drains and culverts for the streams that comes from the North and East and end up below The Leys, Pytchley Drive, and The Banks. It floods across the road and into the fields up to the allotments below St Lawrence’s on a regular basis. I find a submerged tunnel entrance and without over-flowing my wellies, manage to extract a barrow full of debris, releasing the blockage with a satisfying ‘woosh’. Such a volume of water, off East to the Nene and then to the North Sea via The Wash. Only a couple of villages away and a similar sized stream is sending its contents Westwards to the Atlantic via The Avon, Severn and Bristol Channel. We are (the) middle (of) England, neither Midlands Today, nor Look East.
28th December, My wife is greeted by a doorstep dragon in the form of a ‘big black newt’. It stares at her from near the dog’s food bowl but she scoops him up before the hounds arrive. A Great-crested Newt on the move, must tell Brian. I am abed at 2200 and straight away a Tawny Owl is ‘too-woo-ing’ in the Poplar plantation out back. He emits his call every few seconds for a couple of minutes, then ceases as if the job is done. To balance this ‘my’ Little Owl starts his calls at 0200, just loud enough to dig me out of the depths of sleep. 2 Owls in one night is quite rare now, I should be pleased….zzzzzz.
27th December, Tom and I plant 2 Oak trees for two ladies from the village who have been bereaved this past year. A Chiffchaff is calling and Robin hops in and inspects our work. David reports 7 Swans flying over.
26th December, the dark late afternoon brings out 2 Hares to the roadside along Foxhill.
25th December, I’m up and at the park way before eight. It’s cold and clear with a light frost. A welcoming Wren gives a bust of song as do 2 Robins. As is regular I see nothing for ten minutes and start to wonder why I didn’t stay in bed. And then a call from the big blue. A short, nasal ‘yehk’, a Brambling (A rare winter visiting finch). Another four calls but I only see it on the fifth as it’s going away high to the North-east. Nice Christmas present! But there’s more, 2 male Reed Buntings appear, then I see a Moorhen and a pair of Mallard, and then to top it all a Little Owl flies off in front of me as I get to the Sheep flock. Goodness me, I was half expecting to see a Partridge in a Pear tree next! The sheep are still laying, and casually look up at me. ‘Did you see that?’ I inquire. No reply. I count them and wish them a merry Christmas. I think of getting home and the impending mayhem of excited dogs and kids around the Christmas tree. God bless us…every one of us.
23rd December, Alan has a Raven over the Wharf, and Tom reports 2 geese going over. A Mistle thrush is singing. He knows the solstice has past.
22nd December, the ground at CEP is waterlogged and the paths are becoming a mud-bath. I call off the work-party as we’d probably do more harm than good. I check for litter and because of the lack of foliage, litter from the summer months hurled into the undergrowth now comes to light. Ah the summer…. What fun they must have had. I have a look at the wildlife area and straight away manage to flush a Jack Snipe. The sun catches the golden stripes on its back as it leaps away from my feet and goes down about twenty yards ahead. I then check the hide and just as I carefully raise the viewing flap a Snipe freezes and stares at me from the far edge of the back pond. I stop still and watch as the bird slowly lowers its head until out of view.
14th December, singles of Raven, Red Kite, Buzzard and Kestrel noted today. Also a flock of 6 Cormorant flying in ‘v’ formation. David describes perfectly a male Blackcap from his garden on Market Place. Also seeing a flock of Long-tailed Tits as well. Sue reports Fieldfares on Lodge Lane.
10th December, another 5 a.m. alarm call courtesy of a Little Owl. It’s my fault for always having the window open at night. Late back from a job that evening and as we come up the hill past Vanderplank’s Covert on the Foxhill Road, a ‘flurry’ of moths appear in the headlights. I wouldn’t know where to begin on knowing the species but along about 50 yards of road we saw 20 plus.
8th December, with all the usual excesses of bad language, mud and sweat, we move what remains of the original Cotton End Park sheep flock, to the park from The Banks. Let the grazing begin! My wife sends me a photo’ of a Wren that has popped into the conservatory. On the way back from Dav’ and a flock of Lapwing, say 30ish are still about Thrupp.
7th December, Keith from Bridge House Farm reports a good number of Teal on the lake at Murcott, and also Woodcock about.
2nd December, at Long Buckby Wharf, Carol sees a Blackcap in her garden. The Bird which is probably a migrant from Eastern Europe stays for twenty minutes.
1st December, cold but sunny at CEP. A good morning has been had digging clay and with a dozen visitors, making pinch pots with Laura from Long Buckby Pottery. We are having a post work-party chat, and the very observant David Stoddart spots a bird going over us and lets me know in time for me to grab the bins’ and see that it’s a Peregrine. Excellent.