Spring Progress

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They’re back

Big things are happening up on the hill. The curlews came back in dribs and drabs from the 25th March, and the wheatears were close behind them. Larks and pipits tumble out of the sky like confetti, and every burnside has a pair of grey wagtails holding territories. I sat beneath the curlews on a sunlit hill yesterday and inhaled the warm, sunlit moss. It was hard to decide whether I should laugh or cry with delight.

I have been a bit obscure about these massive, life-affirming events on the blog this year, not only because I’m working on my painting and time hasn’t allowed me to rhapsodise as normal, but also because I’m compiling several years of notes on curlews for a book on the subject. Details are still a little vague, but it’s a very entertaining project to work on and I’m excited by the possibilities it raises.

This is a key moment for curlews in Britain, and if I can capture something of their exceptional value on paper, then perhaps it could serve as a wake-up call for their awful decline. I have been watching the tragedy unfold, and as we stand on the precipice, we need to act.

I’m drawing on books and scientific papers, but also from the archives of this blog and the extensive piles of notes that I painstakingly copy up every night, and I’ve amassed such a huge library of material on all kinds of upland waders that I hope the final result will be a punchy, powerful piece of work.

More to come on this, but again, be aware that much of what I’m seeing and doing is being compiled elsewhere…

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3 thoughts on “Spring Progress

  1. Put me down for a copy Patrick since my childhood thirty years ago curlew numbers in central Wales have fallen like a stone. One of reasons is that meadows used for hay have been replaced with silage where cutting can take place any time from the end of May rendering any nesting attempt futile. Mind this cannot explain why the decline is just the same in upland areas ., There is a area above Rhayader in Powys called the Elan valley which provides the drinking water for Birmingham, the land that surrounds the water reservoirs have been left untouched to safeguard the water quality. Much of it comprises of purple moor grass, bilberry and heather, yet in in 1972 a survey found the area had 40 pairs of curlew and 40 pairs of Lapwing. A survey undertaken 3 years ago found 3 pairs of Curlew.

    • Daren, know the area. Conifer plantations on the fringes (home of fox), high sheep numbers (trample, drainage and rush cutting) and zero crow control.
      ‘Walking for curlews’ may get a damn sight more gritty when Patrick ‘punches’..

      • I know Rob, the area has so called Rangers but I would lay odds that they have never undertaken any much needed predator control. Also the habitat management is very poor some areas still have good heather cover, but it is being allowed slowly to revert to scrub, a topper has been used to cut some strips of heather but as it was so rank the cut stalks acts like a mulch suppressing new heather growth. As a result I have found not a sign of a red grouse for many years , although I have found feathers and droppings above Claerwen reservoir. Not a shooting man myself but how about a few less rangers and a few more keepers.

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