Category Archives: Skylarks

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!

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Mid-April

The first swallow of the summer, tumbling over the back field first thing yesterday morning as I opened the gate. Only three days later than last year, despite this dreadful spring. If previous years are anything to go by—although why should they be, these days?—it will be a couple of weeks yet before they're back in great numbers. Which I guess is why one of them doesn't make a summer. It's good to have them back, though.

The afternoon was glorious, with a strong, warm breeze, so I headed up to the Moor. Unusually, I didn't spot a single red grouse, although the meadow pipits were back in decent numbers, and there was a lone skylark belting it out high above me for all he was worth.

Stoodley Pike Monument from the Moor
Stoodley Pike Monument from the Moor

Moorland pool
Moorland pool

The wheatears will be back soon, I reckon.

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.

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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.

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St David's Day

The First of March. A glorious, crisp, blue-sky day, so I abandoned my plans for the morning and headed up on to the moor.

I couldn't believe it: Nature had decided that Spring was on us already. I spotted my first March hare, male skylarks were singing their hearts out high in the sky, and I heard my first curlew calling across the moors.

It'll be snowing within a week, mark my words.

Skylark
An early skylark.

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Postscript: It snowed briefly two days later. Then came a heavy hail-storm. It's not quite Spring yet, despite appearances to the contrary!