Amazing to see the hill is so cracked and dry as we approach the end of April. A fiercely cold wind has been in the North and East for as long as I can remember, and it has scorched the moss into a crisp. It’s no surprise that the snipe should be almost totally absent on this side of the hill, and it comes as quite a contrast to previous years when this moss has literally vibrated to the raucous displays of waders. These wheel ruts (above) are usually a squelching mess of mud and moss in April, and the puddles are riddled through with probing holes. I would have struggled to press my car keys into most of this ground this morning, and even the wettest holes are cracked and bare. I had hoped that “my” snipe were simply holding off until the rain came, but speaking to a friend who knows his waders, we’re so far into spring now that it is more likely that they have simply gone elsewhere to breed this year.
This dryness is having a knock-on effect on the curlews, which are being very quiet this year after their late arrival. I could easily have imagined that it was late March when I went for a walk around the hill this morning, and the cheering chorus of skylarks was little consolation in a biting, frigid landscape.
By way of consolation, the cuckoos have been with us since Saturday, and I was pleased to hear a grasshopper warbler reeling away in the twilight last night. Spring is springing, but in an awkward, half-cocked fashion.