The early bird
The early bird

Given that we are about a month behind schedule for the breeding birds, it seems unlikely that there is much to be gained from running larsens for a few more weeks. However, there has been a pair of corbie crows coming in to one of my last feed hoppers, along with a range of rooks, pigeons and jackdaws, so it seemed worthwhile testing the water with a trap this evening. It could well be that the crows aren’t feeling territorial enough to bother with it yet, but it will do no harm. I set up the trap and then pushed on with planting the new hedge as the sun set this evening, lighting up the streaks of snow which line the dyke-backs further down the glen. On second thoughts, perhaps it’s worth catching the rooks and jackdaws first, since they’re always so easy to gather up. Then I can concentrate on the corbies when they are vulnerable enough to be caught – although in normal years I would be well into trapping of all kinds by now.

Despite the fact that the curlews are still only starting to trickle up from the seaside, the ravens appear to be well advanced with their breeding. I can hear them clocking away to themselves in the old sitkas, where the sound echoes around the forest edge and across a huge expanse of recently felled trees. Ravens start breeding early, so it could be that they were already too far along when the cold weather came and were past the point of being able to postpone.

There were plenty of snipe as the light petered out; some chacking sharply from the rushes while others drummed warily in the bruised dusk. I must have heard ten different drummers in the time it took to dig in two dozen blackthorn plants, some of them working in huge circles through the darkness but always returning on the same eery lap. A single curlew called as the stars came out, and I decided that it was time to head home as a barn owl came coasting down the track and bombed into the verge with his long white legs stretched out beneath him.


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