Saturday, 7 March 2009

They are on their way back!!


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)

32 comments:

Jenn Jilks said...

Hopeful post.
We're still frozen in, but I can see the light on the horizon, way across the ocean!

Thanks for visiting my blog and persevering. I spent a bit of time on it this a.m.

Woman in a Window said...

I distinctly remember the moment of about five years ago, standing at my kitchen window and for the first time in my life, really noticing the birds. I have become my mother, I thought, and that was just fine.

I love the return of the birds. Thankful for it!

Janice Thomson said...

Wonderful post! I can't wait to hear the pitter patter of tiny feet or loud chirpings and new leaves and budding flowers...

Gwen Buchanan said...

I am so glad to hear the spring birds are on their way back to your landscape.. can't wait to see them here...we will probably have to wait til all this snow leaves..

Funny you mention some of the flocks of birds all facing the same direction.. I was just speaking to someone about this the other day.. do you suppose it is so they don't all run into each other when they take off?... as I have always wondered why...

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

You'll have to get out there with a telephoto lens on your camera when things settle down so we can see the many varieties you are home to!

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh I love the sound of the curlew.... It's so exciting when the birds start returning to their breeding sites...

Arija said...

How wonderful to have swampy meadows for such a variety of ground nesting birds! The Curlew's haunting call is only matched by the N.American Loon. We have parrots, Magpies and Crows in our dry state, I do miss the great variety of the Northern Hemisphere.

Heather said...

I love the sound of the curlew's call. It reminds me of trips on to the moors when we lived in Cheshire years ago. I last saw a snipe at Slimbridge - it was close the hide we were in and almost completely camouflaged against a muddy rut in the grass. When we were first married my husband used to scythe part of Granny's paddock and passed the scythe right over a partridge nest before the bird flew up. He got quite a shock! We covered the nest with wire netting and cut grass as it had 16 eggs in it, and fortunately they all hatched. Lovely memories, thankyou Weaver. My eye is quite healed now and today I have done my first bit of real gardening this year. The dark and dingey corner is beginning to look quite good.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

The cry of the curlew is such a wonderful sound. Thinking about it now makes me almost smell the moors and feel the breeze on my face. I also equate it with the slight rattle of cotton grass.

Sal said...

We love the birds too.
I went to Exeter on the train today...it's a beautiful ride and also a great way to watch the river birds, on both the River Teign and River Exe.
;-)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

No curlews here…but only a few minutes ago I saw the first buzzard (turkey vulture) riding the wind above the river. (I actually saw my first of the season yesterday, but elsewhere—so I count this as Riversong's first.) Lots of birds singing and pairing up—mallards and Canada geese, finches.

MarmaladeRose said...

I love reading your posts about the local wildlife. We escaped here to the country about 18months ago and have soooo much to learn about the area! Just your day to day life on the farm is so interesting to us 'townies'. Have you any lambs yet?

Gosh! Yes, maybe we have passed in Elijahs or on the street. We fancied the Old Water Mill that was for sale in your village a couple of years ago, but it wasn't meant to be. We drove through today and our way back from Richmond and I wondered where abouts you where.

Just caught up with your post about China. My husband did a charity bike ride across China in 1999.
Fiona x

BT said...

Oh how lovely Weaver. We have seen and heard the curlews too. On a walk down to the wood they were gliding down to the lake. When we first came here, I could hear their cry but had no idea what it was. Eventually we saw one and could see the long beak. We also had a wimbrel in the meadow, very exciting. We love it when the swallows come though, and nest in our barn adjacent to the house.

The sap is rising indeed.

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Weaver sounds like spring is ont its way for you at last. We're seeing the first signs of Autumn here on the farm. The birds here seem to quieter now the temperatures have started to become a little cooler but we're still having very hot,humid days which is good for the garden and the pasture. Loved how the Farmer (your husband) fenced off around the curlews. Such lovely birds too. I have a photo of some in one of my bird books.

Take care
Liz

The Weaver of Grass said...

Jenn - you make the coming of Spring in your area sound so exciting - approaching across the ocean - how wonderful.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Woman in a window - I can remember the first time I became interested in birds - it was when my father took me to see the nest of a little wren, in the banks of a stream.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Janice - because it has been a proper winter here in the UK I think we are all looking foward to what we hope will be a proer Spring - we haven't had one of those for a few years. Yesterday I heard a song thrush for the first time this year.

The Weaver of Grass said...

An interesting point Gwen - I don't know either. I shall send an e mail to our RSPB, of which I am a member, and ask if anyone knows. Thanks for bringing the point up.

The Weaver of Grass said...

An interesting point Gwen - I don't know either. I shall send an e mail to our RSPB, of which I am a member, and ask if anyone knows. Thanks for bringing the point up.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Derrick - unfortunately I don't have the kind of camera that will take a telephoto lens - but I have just found out how to take close-ups, so watch this space.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Juliet - I expect there are plenty of curlew up in your area - and hopefullly lapwing too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Arija - wish we had parrots! Each area has its own species - so I expect we all have something exciting. But I do agree that the call of the curlew is particularly haunting.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad the eye is better, Heather.
Re the dark and dingy corner - every garden I have ever had has had one of those - however good one gets one's garden there is always that last bit that is unsatisfactory - glad to hear you are tackling it. It is easy in Spring but I think summer often presents a problem - would ferns work? I have a lovely Irish tatting fern in a pot which I have had for years and it never disappoints.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Raph. What a lovely image you set in my mind - the call of the curlew and the rattle of cotton grass - beautiful.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sal - I think train travel is the very best for seeing the countryside - most of the time you are up high looking down on it - and if you go into an embankment there are often beautiful wild flowers.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Scribe - we saw lots of turkey vultures (and bald eagles) when we were in the States last year. As we are going to the East coast this year and then on to Boston, NY and Washington, maybe we shall not be in the right area.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Marmalade Rose - what coincidence - my cottage (where my son now lives) is directly opposite the old water mill you mention. I lived there myself for some years but when I remarried after my first husband's death I moved onto the farm, about a mile away. Just think - we could have been neighbours! On you r way back from Richmond you would have passed our lane end.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Don't think I have ever seen a whimbrel BT - shall now look out for one if they inhabit the same sort of territory. We do get oyster catchers in pairs here in the Summer but have never found a nest.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Mad bush - I expect you have exciting birds too - do you have winter visitors, like we have fieldfares from Scandinavia?

Dave King said...

A very enjoyable post. So much optimism coming through.

BT said...

Weaver, did I mention that Jim's daughter Ali works for the RSPB? She's on maternity leave now but is a great and keen 'birder'.

Mistlethrush said...

Watching curlew from your window - how lucky you are!

Grey partridge too. We don't see many round here; they're mostly red-legged.

Inspiring post