A Conspicuous Clutch

A precarious clutch

Having written yesterday about nesting curlews, I came across one of the nests last night as I left the hill after a quick check around the larsens. The hen got off and away low and silently, and I went forward to find her nest in the most appallingly naïve and obvious spot, bang in the middle of a strip of rushes which I cut in the back end. Interestingly, the eggs are much greener  than others I have seen, and it would make an interesting study to compare all the different shades and tones of curlew eggs, which range from beige to blue to green and have an extremely variable amount of camouflage markings.

There is some fantastic thick cover just a few feet away, but this hen has elected to lay her eggs right out in the open, where the vegetation is less than 7” tall. The soft, round eggs seem to glow in the sunlight and they stand out beautifully in their eye-catching dish of rush stubble and shadows. The fact that there are only two imply that this is a second clutch, but there is a chance that she may be an old hen or the conditions may have been against her.

Either way, as I see it there are two outcomes for this nest, and neither are particularly promising.

  1. It is an inexplicably small first clutch due to hatch any day now. The grass has hardly grown yet this year, so as soon as the chicks are out, they will be as exposed in this field as if they were standing on a billiard table. With little in the way of insect life available, kites and buzzards await.
  2. It is a second clutch, which means that the incubation process is only a few days old (if indeed there is not another egg to come) and the chances of this nest remaining undiscovered for three and a half weeks is extremely remote, despite my best efforts.

Interestingly, it is almost a year to the day since I found a nest in 2014. Looking at my notes from the 19th May 2014, I find references to tormentil flowers and milkwort on the moss, as well as green hairstreaks, large whites and orange tip butterflies. I described the undergrowth as “full of spiders, craneflies and small beetles, and evidence everywhere of growing, thrusting grass”. There are no such signs of life yet this year, and there is no question that we are further behind in 2015. There are a few sprigs of cuckoo flower here and there, but otherwise the hill is bare.

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