Every Summer a variety of ground-nesting birds use our fields and the neighbouring very marshy field as nesting sites. For a couple of months there are baby birds to be found if you look carefully, then they become adolescents, then adults, then they go - one day it is as though they have never been - then you know that summer is over. But during those all too brief weeks there are various little things like bumble-bees on long legs darting about the fields, or standing still in a clump of grass pretending they are not there - my goodness how quickly they learn that skill.
Well, dear readers, I have to report that Spring must be nearly here for the ground=nesting birds are coming. Today, when I walked round the field I saw two pairs of curlew - our largest wading bird. They go mostly to estuaries or river banks in the winter but now they are pairing up and beginning to glide (if you have ever seen them, there is no other word to describe their flight in the fields) over the short grass in our meadows. They won't begin to actually lay eggs and sit until the grass is a sensible height to hide them (around April usually). In the days when we had a milking herd the farmer used to put an electric fence round any nesting curlew he found, because cows are pretty clumsy when they are ambling about the field. The call of the curlew is among the most haunting cry of any British bird - you often hear them long before you see them.
Before I reached home on my walk I had also seen a pair of Grey Par tridge - they too will hopefully nest somewhere on the farm, as will a few of the countless pheasants, although often they nest in such daft places that their eggs are taken before they hatch (crows, magpies, stoats, weasels - they all love a nice fresh egg).
There was a snipe on the beckside this morning - maybe he has a mate somewhere near and is thinking of nesting in the marshy field. Lapwing sometimes nest there too, although at present they are still milling around in flocks of about a hundred and landing in the ploughed field, all facing the same way, looking for all the world like plastic decoy birds.
In our little wood there will be mallard (the farmer thinks some of them are nesting already), coot and moorhen nests - we leave a lot of brash around in there for just that reason.
So - something is stirring, the sap is rising and it won't be long before there is the patter of tiny feet, as they say. Or, as Tennyson so aptly puts it (only slightly modified!) "In the Spring a young birds fancy lightly turns to things he has been thinking about all Winter."
(Thanks to free bird pictures for my curlew)