The Hidden Heritage of High Lodge

Birds of Beachamwell

Bury Free Press Saturday September 14 1872

Clipping from the National Newspaper Archive

Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 11 November 1815

A pair of very rare and beautiful birds called the Rough-legged Falcon (Falco Norwegicus) was taken on the warren of Mr. Robert Scales, of Beachamwell, near Swaffham a few days since, and are now alive in his possession. Mr. Pennant has accurately described this rare bird in the appendix of his British Zoology, but has omitted to say where it was shot; there are very few instances of its having been met in England.

Norfolk News, 12 October 1867

Swaffham - a Rare Visitor - Sunday last, a beautiful specimen of the Buffon's Skua (Lestis Buffoni) was shot on the warren at Beachamwell, by J. Cathercole, gamekeeper. The Buffon's Skua is very rarely met with in England. It is now in the preservation of Mr. Thomas Elliss, Swaffham.

The Star Guernsey, Tuesday, September 23rd, 1880

The following are the 'bags' made on five successive days by six guns on the Beachamwell Estate - 345 partridges, 92 hares, and 65 rabbits - 502; 443 partridges, 121 hares, 37 rabbits, and 2 various - 603; 284 partridges, 98 hares, 20 rabbits, and 6 various, - 408; 232 partridges, 16 hares and 5 rabbits - 253; 254 partridges, 27 hares, 28 rabbits, and 5 various - 314, making a total of 2082 head.

Norfolk News - Saturday 21st December 1889

… 'Like the ringed plover, the Lapwings migrate to the inland warrens in spring, and breed on Thetford and Beechamwell' say Mr. Stevenson, writing in 1870; but they are seen now in scores instead of hundreds…

Lowestoft Journal - Saturday 20th July 1895

Local History Notes

The Rev. C Nightingale writes to the 'Daily News' from Beechamwell, Norfolk

I take the following from my note book for June as being of interest to some of your readers - I heard the cuckoo at 1.55 on the morning of the 1st, on the previous evening he was called at 9 o'clock, so his sleep was short. The swallow was singing at 2.20, and the blackbird at a quarter to 3 took up his quarters in the apple tree, and sand to his mate, whose nest is in the privet hedge beneath. Of all the birds the blackbird has the most explicit voice. There is no mistaking what he means. Whether in anger or fear, or rivalry or love, its peculiarly human quality asserts itself, and prevents us being in error as to his attentions. There is nothing like it except the cooing of the cushat dove, and wants of course the flutiness of the blackbird's song. Well might Drayton say, 'Upon the dulcet pipe the merle doth only play'. He is sweet, tender and winning, as it were a Trilby in black and gold; while the thrust is as shrill and vulgar as Benson's Dodo. Whatever may be the case with animals, birds must have a sense of humour. Last year I watched three swallow who were teasing a young cuckoo that had perched on the rails of Storey's meadow. They flew backwards and forwards within an inch of two of his head screaming with delight as he kept ducking to avoid them. I could hear them at their joke for some minutes after I left the window. Today (June 29th) I saw the same performance repeated with a poor hare that was feeding on the grass plot. It was droll beyond telling to see the quick flop of the hare's long ears each time the birds flew over them, while one swallow flew to and from in front of this nose to prevent his bolting. I perceived the difference between jest and earnest the next day when a hen sparrow alighted on the chimney in which the swallows have built their nests. After pecking her two or three times, a swallow darted at her full speed and hitting her on the neck, sent her spinning over and over on to the slates beneath (June 30th). Darwin speaks somewhere of the wonderful accuracy of the aim of young chickens in picking up their food. I noticed my three-day old ducklings this morning catching flies on the wing stalking them successfully from one blade of grass to another. Last month I saw a brood of wild ducks, certainly not more than a week old, catching gnats on the Old Hall Moat as fast as the eye could follow them.

Is not fear an acquired instinct? Asks the Rev Nightingale, continuing the extracts from his note book. This afternoon the chickens in the stable ran under the hen when the paper was fluttered over them, and also when a large bird flew past the window. Three days before they took no notice of paper shaken quite close, nor of a pigeon released so as to fly within a few inches of their heads. The hen took no notice in any way. I observe the sparrows which build under the eaves select the white feathers from the poultry yards for their nests. The reason given for the white fluff on the tails and under parts of animals is that they may be perceived in the dim light of their holes, but what law of survival will account for chickens of the black breeds having the under half of their bodies white, until they are a month old, as our domestic fowls all come from the spangled Jungle fowl?

Although I have never seen a female 'glow worm' here, great numbers of the male beetles have flown into the house in the evenings this month, their little sparks of light giving one some idea of the scene where fire-flies abound. The other night a large moth ('Buff Tip') rested on the red baize of the study door, where the rays of a candle fell directly on him. The exquisite beauty of his eyes as they gleamed in the light was wonderful. Constantly moving in their sockets, and changing their reflections, they looked like opals set in diamonds. So far as my memory goes no entomologist notices this peculiar lustre of a moth's eyes.

Lowestoft Journal - Saturday 12th October 1895

Bird Life in Norfolk

The Rev. Robt C Nightingale, of Beechamwell, Swaffham, sends to the Daily News the following extract from his Nature History note book for the last three months.

July 3rd. I saw today a pair of hoopoes on the road near the Glebe Cross. They were searching for insects in some manure, and upon being disturbed flew into an elm close to the roadside. I could see the beautiful orange crest of the male, with its black tip going up and own as he walked, and after he flew into the tree he continued his cry of 'uup, uup'. It is 35 years since I saw this loveliest of English birds in the open, and yet it used to be fairly common in Norfolk, especially round the decoys on the Broads. What a long and famous history it has! The Egyptians placed it on the staff of Horus as an emblem of joy and affection. The Greeks said Terens was changed to a hoopoe as he rushed to avenge his murdered boy, and Fixed on his head, the crested plumes appear, Long is his beak, and sharpened as a spear. I wonder how many people know that when they laugh at a man for being 'a dupe' they are referring to the amazing case with which this bird is bamboozled by some meal worms tied to a limed stick that is set up on the hillock to attract its attention.

29th A jay was seen this morning in the garden. The first that we have seen since the autumn of 1893. We have not seen a magpie for more than two years, and during the same time we have only seen a sparrow hawk twice, and a kestrel about half a dozen times in this and the next parish which are about four miles across. Neither have I heard or seen an owl this year. A pair of hen harriers were about in January. I saw one of them chasing a wood pigeon, and a day or two after it or its hard mate was caught in a rat trap. The other disappeared. In these bad times the game help to pay the rent, but it is hard to forgive them for being the cause of the destruction of these beautiful, and, with the exception of the harrier and the sparrowhark, almost harmless birds. There are few gayer sights when all the world is gay on a spring morning then the sight of a magpie going down a hedgerow flirting his long tail and puffing up his white and steel blue plumage at every stop. The miller's wife was 'proud and pert as is a pie'.

August 2nd I have observed during the storms of the last three weeks that neither tame nor the wild birds have taken any notice of the thunder or lightning. For instance, the pigeons lay with outstretched wings on the top of their locker enjoying the shower bath, a blackbird in the garden when on cracking the shell of a snail till the rain came down in torrents; but when I fired a gun or knocked two pieces of wood together, though the birds could not see me, they flew away at once. As they had probably never been in a storm before, and had certainly not been fired at, it is hard to tell how they could have told the difference between the natural and artificial noises unless they exercised their inherited memories of the harmlessness of the thunder, or from the absence of a flash before the artificial noise was heard.

September 11th We have been cloyed with beauty during the past week. At every open window on the open floor the butterflies have been coming in, even though the blinds were drawn down close. In two days I caught 42 of the small tortoiseshell species and one red admiral, 20 have flown into our landing today, and are now on the ceiling in clusters, their heads placed inwards with bodies radiating outwards. The singular thing is that none come in on the ground-floor though the windows are open all day, on to the grass plot and rosary. I have never known butterflies take up their winter quarters in a house in this way before. So persistent were they that one day out of about 20 I turned out of the house seven were back in less than five minutes, fluttering on the blinds or windows as they tried to get in again.

Eastern Daily Press - Thursday 12 March 1896

Rough-legged Buzzards
To the Editor
Sirs, It will interest some of your readers to know that a pair of rough-legged buzzards were flying over here on Monday at about 9.30 a.m. They were flying rather slowly, and occasionally hovered. The hen bird was 200 yards in front of the cock. They were about 100 yards up in the air, and were flying due south. I have not heard of a pair being seen in Norfolk since 1875.
I am, sir, faithfully yours,
Robert C Nightingale,
Beechamwell Rectory, Swaffham
11 March 1896

Norwich Mercury 3 October 1903

Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society
Mr. W G Clarke exhibited a specimen of the Sooty term (sterna fuliginosa) which was found dead on Santon Downham Heath in the spring of 1900. This is only the fourth record of this species for Great Britain and the seventh for the whole of Europe.