Over the past few years I’ve been keen to pin down the precise moment when the seasons start to change on the Chayne, and I now have quite a detailed diary of annual happenings to keep track on the passing months. The first sign to suggest that Spring is on its way is usually the appearance of a singing skylark, which pops up on or around Valentine’s day. Within hours of the first skylark, the snipe start to chip – a certain precursor of drumming within the week. I can then expect to find the first cotton grass flowers on the high moss, and almost simultaneously the snipe start to drum, as predicted. By the end of February, the moor is coming back to life, although there is a long roll-call of events and discoveries to take me through March and all the way to June.
This year, I have been able to trace the larks back even further to their arrival on the Chayne. I currently have a loop of traps and snares which I walk every day, and this has given me a good chance to keep tabs on the changes. Used to seeing the odd meadow pipit here and there throughout the winter, I probably hadn’t seen any small birds on my walk for a couple of weeks. On Sunday, the dog put up two small brown birds, which were either larks or pipits. This was notable, but on Monday, she put up five. This morning, she put up nine. Incompetent as I am, I can’t tell the difference between a meadow pipit and a skylark at fifty yards when the little brute is flying keenly into a frozen wind, but it suggests that something is stirring and that the little birds which make the hill such a pleasure in the spring are starting to amass in numbers. After months of darkness and rain, I am embarrassingly excited.