Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk.

A pre-dawn arrival at Houghton-on-the-Hill and a very autumnal feel with cool misty conditions and a moderate south-westerly.  A lovely sunrise was witnessed, however, it was clear that high in the distant south skies that a front was slowly approaching which would bring rain by the afternoon.
Walking east from St Mary's church it was great to see the hedgerows heavy with blackberry fruits, but many fruits are yet to ripen, a bit late this year.  I met a lovely lady from nearby North Pickenham who was picking blackberries, during our conversation about the late ripening of these fruits she told me that they should be eaten before October as folklore says blackberries will then be unfit to eat as the devil spits on them.  This folklore was new to me and I found the following during my research further into this, it reads:

Although Michaelmas is celebrated on the 29th September, when the calendar was reformed in 1752, “Old Michaelmas Day” was moved to the 10th October. Old Michaelmas Day is also called “Devil Spits Day”; it’s the last day that blackberries should be picked, according to old British folklore. This is known as the day that the Devil came to earth; he fell from the skies, straight onto a blackberry bush, whereupon he cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, stamped on them and then spat on them making them unfit to eat.

Blackcap (male) Houghton Common 15/09/13
Despite folklore suggesting that blackberries are unfit after Michaelmas, several species of birds will continue to enjoy eating blackberries sometimes until bushes are stripped.
Today was quite interesting as good numbers of Chiffchaffs were once again seen in dense Elder habitats as were Blackcaps.  I estimated at least 10+ Chiffchaffs congregated in one small area with others in woodland and other hedgerow habitats.  Several Linnets and Yellowhammers came and went during my visit.

Visible Migration
Wind direction did not really favour visible migration this morning, however, a very light passage of Meadow Pipits was seen following sunrise when a number of singles passed over from north to south.
Hopefully before September ends, and conditions are right, I will once again witness the passage of many hundreds of Meadow Pipits passing over Houghton, along maybe with scarcer migrants which I have also seen here, including Tree Pipit.

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