March 2017 at Wark Farm
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We have now had our full compliment of feathered signs of spring at the farm. It's supposed to be swallows that welcome in the summer and they will be a while yet but for us the seasonal progression of wading birds, all with their distinctive and beautiful calls are so very characteristic of this piece of country as the days lengthen. Following it's usual pattern the snipe numbers are reducing in the wetland as the migratory birds move away and we will be left with just a few breeding birds to patrol their territories over the rushy areas with their bleating call as they rise and dive on their display flights. The golden plover have come and gone but may come through again with their bubbling musical speech, arrowing past or dotting around on the short pasture or plough on their way up to the higher ground to nest. The first lapwing returned two weeks ago, scurrying and feeding in the field where the cows and calves are being fed and the ground is churned up by the cows feet and muck, suiting them very nicely. They've tumbled and pee-witted a couple of times but are not in full voice yet. Hopefully they will stay to nest when the field is ploughed.
The first oystercatchers were skimming and peeping over the fields about a week ago, also enjoying the mud where the cows are, probing in the soft ground with their beautiful long orange beaks for the bugs and beasties that make up their diet. Finally, yesterday I heard the first curlew calling over the farm, speaking their name far more beautifully than I could ever manage. Lovely and so distinctive of the open uplands, and why the curlew is our farm logo. Not that any of this means winter won't still thump us with a-vengeance, but to be able to turn off the tractor engine after giving the cows their bale of silage on a mild March morning and sit and watch a trio of lapwing and a pair of oystercatchers, joined by a mallard drake and two ducks, feeding around the cows is a treat to be savoured through whatever is left of the winter.