Category Archives: Lapwings

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 »

Birthday walk

I decided to celebrate my birthday with a walk on the moor. The glorious weather of the last week had, of course, disappeared—but at least it wasn't raining.

Lots of red grouse around. Whenever they fly away from you, they seem to do so in a long curve, rather than flying directly away from you. I wonder if it is so that they always present their upper half to you, affording them better camouflage. Or maybe it is because they can keep a better eye on you that way. Or maybe something else entirely.

Watched a skylark ascending near the trig point. It must have sung for a good couple of minutes as it rose so high that I lost sight of it amongst the floaters in my eyes. Knackering work for skylarks, singing.

Spotted a lapwing in the field just below the moor. Got some half-decent, albeit heavily cropped photos before it took off. Definitely one of my top-ten birds.

Lapwing
Lapwing.

Then a kestrel hunting over the scrub above the Nook track.

Kestrel
Kestrel.

On the whole, a very pleasant walk.

More photos »

Spring?

More like summer. Three days of unseasonably hot, sunny weather, with more promised.

I stood for twenty minutes, leaning over the gate near the compost heap, soaking it up. A couple of butterflies, several bumble-bees, lapwings calling, and a pair of rabbits in the back field. I have been seeing quite a few rabbits there in recent months, which is unusual. I think they might have established a new outpost nearby. They have even been digging in the lawn by the compost heap.

The larger of the two rabbits, which I assume was a male, was very active, hopping back and forth, scratching in the soil, and rubbing his chin against spiky, dead nettle stalks, presumably leaving his scent. The sap is rising. He had a sizeable, ginger, Mohican strip at the back of his neck. Do rabbits usually have these? I have not noticed them before.

It's about now that I start looking optimistically for swallows, but the earliest I have seen them up here is on my birthday, 2nd April.

Flap-wings

Lapwings are back above the fields behind our house.

This makes me ridiculously happy. Anyone might think Spring is on the way.

Frodsham Marshes

I lived a stone's throw from Frodsham Marshes for over 30 years, yet I never thought to visit them. Today, en route to visit Dad, I decided to put that right. And I'm so glad that I did.

Trapped between an oil refinery and a massive chemical works, Frodsham Marshes are a classic example of overlooked wilderness. The sort of place celebrated by Richard Mabey in his marvellous The Unofficial Countryside, and by more recent authors including Robert Macfarlane, and Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley. Places where Nature hangs on—and, indeed, flourishes—alongside the modern, man-made world.

Edgelands
Edgelands.

I could smell the petrochemicals as I left my car on the bridge over the motorway and headed along the dirt track. I didn't think the sloes at the side of the track would make particularly palatable gin. But the smell soon disappeared as I became accustomed to it, and the rough verges and farmland gave way to untidy hedgerows overflowing with elderberries.

A few late swifts flew overhead as I reached the man-made lake which appeared to have something to do with the Manchester Ship Canal. The lake contained scores of tufted ducks. At the far end, where the lake gave way to untidy grassland, there were waders. I'm pretty poor at wader identification, but managed to recognise lapwings, common sandpipers, and black-tailed godwits.

Black-tailed godwits
Black-tailed godwits.

Turning back, I was admiring a buzzard standing on some rough ground in front of the chemical works, when a small, unidentified little brown job shot overhead with a peregrine falcon in hot pursuit. After less than two seconds, they disappeared behind the hedgerow. But something told me they would be back momentarily, so I fumbled my camera into readiness. And there they were again, ducking and weaving right above me. I fired away like a crazy thing. They were far too fast to focus on, so I just kept shooting.

It was quite clear, though, that the peregrine's heart wasn't really in the pursuit. He almost seemed to be teasing his pursuee. After about ten seconds, he gave up, and disappeared back over the hedgerow.

Peregrine falcon
Peregrine falcon in luke-warm pursuit.

Walking back toward my car, I bumped into a man walking his greyhound. He asked me if I had seen anything. Peregrines are rather common on the marshes, it would seem. He also told me that, a couple of years back, he had spotted an osprey nearby. And a friend of his who works on the ship canal frequently sees porpoises there. Sadly, they never seem to make it back out through the lock gates.

All this wonderful wildlife in such an unpromising location. Perhaps there is still hope for the world after all.

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More photos from my walk »

For more on peregrines, see J.A. Baker's poetic book, The Peregrine.