Tuesday, 19 February 2008


All this frost and fog seems to have had mixed effects on the birds. In the garden, they're more visible than ever, with the cold forcing them to look to feeders as the best source of sustenance. Out and about on the patch, though, certain species have gone missing - Little Grebes, for instance, on the smaller (now frozen) ponds, such as those at Kelham Bridge, one of my regular haunts. On Sunday, there were at least two Water Rail there, good numbers of winter thrushes, plus Lapwings and Golden Plovers in the skies nearby, but otherwise only a couple of Snipe and a few Coot and Moorhen.

Looking back through my notebooks from previous years, I noticed that this week is usually when the first Curlew appear back in the area, usually stopping off for a couple of days at sites such as Sence Valley Forest Park, before presumably pushing on further north (perhaps much further north). Where they've wintered, I'm not sure. The south coast, maybe, or a warm-ish estuary on the French coast?

It's also noticeable, though, that there's a second, much later influx of Curlews, this time on the higher ground around Charnwood Forest. Oddly enough I always seem to see them first on Easter Monday, although that's presumably because that's when I happen to be travelling in such parts, rather than because they're a particular sect of Curlews who have decided to regulate their movements according to the dictates of medieval church councils.

There's been talk in the past about possible breeding, and certainly at one regular site (a large pasture) I've seen a couple of pairs displaying for the last two or three springs. But whatever, it's got so that their strange, ecstatic bubbling call, or the sight of their gull-like flight, is a better indication of the arrival of spring round these parts than the first Sand Martin, say. I reckon they'll be around by the weekend, bringing warmer times with them.

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