It looks like the curlews are making progress with their nests. I watched a cock rise up and mob a red kite yesterday afternoon, and a different bird spent the last few minutes of daylight circling noisily around his patch last week, giving me hope that territories are being carefully maintained. Some of the birds are definitely just starting their second clutches after disaster struck earlier in the month, but I am quite confident that others will soon be hatching.
I was concerned to find stoat tracks across a muddy gateway early last week within fifty yards of one of the nests, but was then satisfied to have caught the culprit within 24 hours of refreshing a nearby trap. It sometimes seems that a trap simply needs to be sprung and reset in order for it to make a catch, particularly if the process scuffs up the soil and makes it seem like something interesting has happened. The stoat was a monster, bigger than any I have ever caught on the hill, and it is scary to think what he might have got up to if he remained at large on a hill full of nests.
At the same time, much of this hard work will be for nothing if the weather doesn’t warm up. The last ten days have been cold and severe, and much of the insect life is either suppressed or absent. The first broods of red grouse are not far away, but aside from the occasional hatch of flies and beetles, the best brood-rearing habitats are still quiet and sterile.
The only birds which really seem to be thriving despite the cold are the cuckoos. The cold weather has done nothing to put off the drinker moth caterpillars, and they lie like fuzzy fingers all across the white grass. I watched a cock cuckoo gulping down a pile of these massive tubes a few days ago, hopping around the fallen bracken like a short-legged jay with his beak laden down. While the wind has made it hard to hear the cuckoos, they seem to be faring surprisingly well in the cold.