Category Archives: Curlews

Moor Walk

It was another glorious day yesterday, and I had presciently got all of my household chores out of the way earlier in the week, so I decided to take a walk up to the Moor.

Might summer finally be here?
Might summer finally be here?

I was somewhat overdressed for the weather in my moleskin shirt, fleece and waterproof jacket. This was confirmed as I gasped my way to the top of the hill, only to see a fell-runner run past in only his running shoes and shorts. He was so intent on his running that he didn't even bother to touch the trig point to make it official. Now there was a chap who needed to examine his priorities.

There were skylarks singing in the sky, several curlews burbling in the distance, and a number of wheatears flashing their eponymous white arses along the walls and above the fields (my first on the Moor this summer). But by far my strangest encounter was coming face-to-beak with a female duck, sticking her head out of the heather. We don't get many ducks on the Moor!

Wheatear
Male wheatear.
What the duck?
What the duck?

On my way down, I even spotted a few reed buntings on the edge of the Moor. I've not seen them up there before.

Reed bunting
Male reed bunting.

A very pleasing walk. Albeit a little on the hot side!

More photos »

At home

Shutting the gate after returning home with the Sunday newspaper this morning, I was treated to a virtuoso solo performance from a wren singing somewhere in the conifer in the back garden. At least, I was pretty sure it was a wren, but it was so loud—almost painfully loud—that I wondered whether it might be something else. But, sure enough, as I listened, transfixed, a tiny bird with an upturned tail flitted out from its hiding place amongst the branches and perched on the topmost twig of the tree. Pound-for-pound, wrens must be one of the loudest animals on Earth—as far as we vertebrates are concerned, at least.

Yesterday afternoon, I spend a most enjoyable hour reading the latest London Review of Books, taking in the sun on the patio. Swallows flopped into and out of view, ducks dabbled invisibly in the still-waterlogged field behind the wall, and a curlew even graced me with its presence.

I can think of worse ways to spend an hour.

A case of mistaken identity

I lay in bed yesterday morning, listening to a curlew calling from the field in front of our house.

It was calling again this morning as I went to open the gate in the unforecasted snow. So I sneaked round to have a peek. It turned out not to be a curlew at all, but a starling in our cherry tree doing a very passable impersonation (imbirdation?) of a curlew. They are impressive mimics.

Then, as I went to open the garage door, I heard my first lapwing of the year calling from somewhere in the fields behind the house.

Well, I say it was a lapwing, but, for all I know, it was another starling.

Postscript (2 hours later): I've just seen it. Definitely a lapwing. It's great to have them back! Now, if it would only stop snowing, it might begin to feel a bit more like Spring.

A sign of spring

I needed to drop something off at the farm this afternoon, so I decided to walk the Nook Circuit. It was bitterly cold, but wonderfully fresh.

Greenfinches taking flight
Greenfinches taking flight in light snow

Back at the house, I noticed that we have some more gelatinous blobs (star jelly) just a few feet away from where the last batch appeared. I'm now semi-convinced that moles must be behind them. There has been a lot of mole activity under that patch of lawn recently. I'm guessing the blobs are discarded food. Slug mucus, maybe.

Star jelly
Star Jelly

I was just heading in for a brew, when something caught me ear. For a second, I thought I'd imagined it. But there it was again—no mistaking it this time—the call of a curlew. And then it was answered by another nearby. The calls continued for a couple of minutes, then the two birds took off together and headed off in the direction of the Moor.

Curlews! Might Spring really be on its way?

Where was I? (And how I spent my summer)

It has been pointed out to me that I haven't updated this journal in several months. Not that it needed pointing out, you understand: I was painfully aware of the fact. To be honest, I had been toying with the idea of scrapping the whole thing and using the lifesgrandeur.com domain name for some other, as-yet-unidentified purpose.

I've been very busy, you see. I've been writing my book. In fact, I've written my book, and am now looking for a literary agent. Literary agents are extremely difficult to get hold of, apparently, but it's definitely the thing to do, if you can manage it. And, if you can't, there's always the self-publishing-on-Kindle option.

And the weather has been so damn awful, you see. ‘The crappiest summer since records began,’ the Met Office said. Or something like that. So I haven't been getting out as much as I'd like.

And then there's the backlog, you see. I haven't posted here since mid-June. That's over four months' worth of posts I would have to write. Which is a daunting prospect to say the least.

So, tell you what: why don't I just post a whole bunch of photos of stuff I've seen since mid-June, with no commentary except the photo captions, and we'll carry on from there as if nothing happened. Which it didn't, I suppose.

Of course, this means I won't get to tell you about all the stuff I didn't manage to photograph, like the two female goshawk sightings in Anglesey (or, more likely, the same female goshawk twice—my first ever goshawk sightings), and the stoat that failed to spot me sitting on my favourite rock, and the peregrine falcon which flew right by my windscreen while I was stuck in a traffic jam on the M56 near Frodsham Marshes only last week. But you're not interested in goshawks or stoats or peregrines if there aren't any photos, are you?

So, without further ado, on with the pictures. First, a few shots I failed to include in my last post:

Lapwing
A lapwing spotted just below the Moor on a walk on 13th June.
Common haircap moss
Common haircap moss.
Gorse
Gorse.

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Song thrush
On 25th June, on a walk around the lanes, I spotted a song thrush next to the daytime moon.

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I took another walk on the Moor on 12th July—a longer walk than usual, up to High Brown Knowl:

Mitchell Brothers' Mill
Looking down from the Moor towards Mitchell Brothers' Mill.
Caterpillar
An unidentified caterpillar. (I am hopeless at caterpillars.)
Curlew
A curlew circled above me, emitting alarm calls.

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Red grouse
I was back up on the Moor on 18th August, bagging grouse. (The red grouse is one of the stars of my book.)

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Sexton beetle
On a knackering walk with friends in the Yorkshire Dales on 18th August, I added this sexton beetle to my entomological photograph collection. (But, if you look very closely, you will see that there is more than one insect in this photo.)

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And then, in September, came Anglesey: one of my favourite places in the whole world. The photos are here, and the slideshow is here, but here are a few of my better snaps:

Guillemot
A rather tame guillemot.
Wheatear
Quite possibly my best wheatear photo so far. One of my favourite birds (and another star of my book.)
Raven
It's pretty much guaranteed you'll see a raven or two, if you visit the Anglesey coast these days.
Sandwich tern
This sandwich tern was fishing by the rocks every day. It had a newly fledged chick in tow, and was teaching it how to fish—feeding its lazy and noisy offspring in the process.
Bottlenose dolphins
I looked for them every morning, and was eventually rewarded with the sight of a group of three or four bottlenose dolphins heading off across the bay.

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And, other than a couple more walks which did not yield any photos of note, that's about it. We're up to date!

May 2012 update

I'm behind with my updates again. A quick summary might therefore be in order:

Sun, 06-May-2012: After a matinee screening at the Hebden Bridge Picture House, Jen and I bought a bag of chips and went to eat them by the packhorse bridge in the middle of town. I could not believe it: there was a dipper feeding in the shallows less than ten feet from where we were standing. It caught a small fish and spent about a minute battering it (no pun intended) against a rock before heading off with it upstream. Lends a whole new meaning to the phrase fish & chips. Needless to say, I did not have a camera to hand.

Wed, 16-May-2012: Went for a walk on the moor up to High Brown Knoll. Took a cracking photo of a robin in a garden at the side of Wainsgate Lane on my way up. Also saw a number of wheatears and curlew on the moor.

Robin
Robin
Wheatear
Wheatear

More photos from the walk »

Sun, 20-May-2012: A walk with Jen on Blackstone Edge. Saw a number of golden plover: quite a rare bird for me! Even managed to get some snaps:

Golden plover
Golden plover

More photos from Blackstone Edge »

This week and last: A large, brown hare has been hanging out in the field behind the house. Finally managed to get some decent(ish) photos:

Brown hare
Brown hare
Brown hare
Brown hare
Brown hare
Brown hare

Snow

Wednesday 4th saw a blizzard blow out of nowhere overnight. I struggled to get home from Dad's. The following day, Maundy Thursday, I was supposed to be working, but Jen sent me a text message as she arrived at work: “Fabulous day for a walk. Get on them hills.” What more excuse did I need?

Snow drift
Snow drift

The snow had mostly gone, but there were still thigh-deep drifts in places, especially alongside walls. On the way up to the moor from Nook Cottages, I had a Mexican stand-off with bolshy sheep. Then I saw the lamb lying lifeless at her feet. She was trying to protect it, poor thing. Out of respect I gave her a wide berth.

On the moor itself, the track was under several inches of snow. Somebody else had been up there before me, heading the other way, so I walked in their footprints to make the going easier. Then I got to a deeper bit, the snow gave way, and I was suddenly stuck to the top of my legs in snow. It took me a full minute to struggle out.

Rabbit footprints
Rabbit footprints
Lapwings were tumbling above the fields below me, and a pair of curlews flew overhead.

The snow was more patchy as I headed up the hill and along the edge to the trig point, skylarks in full song. There is something incongruous about hearing skylarks as you wade through snow. Unlike the weather, they certainly realised that it was supposed to be Spring.

There were lots of rabbit and grouse tracks in the snow. I love walking alongside animal tracks: it's almost as if they are accompanying you. Time-shifted companions.

Red grouse
Red grouse

On my way back down through the field, the sheep was still there, suckling her ‘dead’ lamb. It hadn't been lifeless; it had just been born—it was still coated in membrane.

More photos »