After a long, stuffy day indoors yesterday, it was an enormous treat to head up the hill in the evening to go around my larsen traps and see something of the real world. It was eight o’clock by the time I rolled to a standstill on the track, and as soon as the engine fell silent, the car was flooded with rolling waves of blackcock song. Some rain began to patter on the windscreen, but the view towards the West was a smirry blur of orange light, turning Cairnsmore of Fleet into a blue smudge above the sea of conifers and moorland.
This is the first time that this blackcock has displayed into the evening, and he worked away on his little patch with fantastic patience, turning slowly round and round and sneezing back to the provocative calls of fencing pheasants in the rushes. Snipe hummed and buzzed overhead, and there was a constant seesaw chorus of cuckoos from the new plantations. I tried to put my finger on how many I could hear, but they moved and turned until it was just an ambiguous din of pulses. I should think there were between six and ten, but it seemed less important as I began to splash up through the paidled moss to feed the traps and check the crows. The curlews are well down on their eggs and I hear very little from them these days. Paradoxically, you should only worry about curlews at this time of year when you can see them.
I’ve had something of a bonanza with two of my larsen traps over the past few days, and it’s gratifying to find that they have cleared quite a large area between them. After a few days without catching, I usually leave a hen’s egg out beside the trap as a test of my success. It’s too simple to say that an untouched trap means there are no crows in the area, but if the egg is still there when I get back, I can conclude that things have gone quiet. A sitting crow’s a canny thing, and they’ll often hang out beside a trap without actually going in. No matter how cunning they are, they can never pass up the opportunity of a free egg, so even if the trap is totally untouched after 24 hours and the egg has gone, you can be sure you’ve had a visitor. For the past forty eight hours, I’ve had pure white bantam eggs lying out beside my traps without being touched – a fairly reliable sign that things are going well.