The Cottongrass Returns

The first fresh shoot of 2014
The first fresh shoot of 2014

As the Spring continues to develop, I spotted the first fresh cottongrass flowers on the Chayne yesterday afternoon. The value of these shoots to grouse and blackgame makes their arrival a bit of a milestone in itself, and combined with the ever growing stack of pugnacious larks, the character of the moor is taking on a different tone altogether. It has now been five days in a row that I have seen at least one harrier, and I stood back this morning to watch a merlin hunting larks in a stiff, rippling wind. Out on the darkening last night, the sky came to life with the ecstatic throb of snipe, while woodcock still rushed crazily amongst them at head height.

Despite having seen the first curlews of the year on some neighbouring ground on Monday, I still haven’t seen any curlews on my own patch yet. They are usually here by the first week in March, and I wonder if they are a little hesitant this year after having got their fingers burnt in the blizzard at the end of last March. They are certainly “on the move” elsewhere, but I wonder if their delayed return to the Chayne means that winter has been keeping something back.


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