A morning with sunlit haze, the fells indistinct. A curlew was calling from atop a field wall, watching over a tiny chick in the pasture beyond. I've found curlew on Cunswick before but not with young.. The adults' plumage was of colours rich and warm, both parents.
In spring they can be heard on the uplands of Scout Scar and Cunswick Fell as they come to higher ground to breed. Here, their diet becomes earthworms, beetles, spiders and leatherjackets with their chicks feeding on spiders and other insects. The ground has baked hard during drought so the adult curlew must find probing for earthworms difficult.
If the Cunswick curlew bred on the pastures where we found them then farmers have an important role to play in protecting this species whose numbers are in decline. It’s important that a crop of silage or haylage is taken after the birds have bred.
Earlier in spring, I heard the beautiful call of the male curlew as I crossed Kendal Race Course, from damper pastures down-slope of Scout Scar. I hope they've bred successfully. Curlew are ground-nesting birds, predated by foxes and badgers but the pastures north of Bradleyfield Farm and not access land, inaccessible to walkers with dogs, so the birds have solitude.
I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker and we saw it come down briefly onto the path before us.
There were a few white butterfly orchids, dropwort coming into bloom, the first few fragrant orchids, and bedstraw. Beyond that, a dearth of flora and the seeded grasses look brown, shorter for lack of rain.
An occasional swallow and a few swifts flew over the escarpment edge. Starling were vocal in the top of a leafy hawthorn. A close-up shows the gleaming dark adult birds and the dull brown of juveniles in the flock.
We concluded a rewarding morning by hearing and seeing linnet and goldfinch.
When lock-down allowed us all only to walk from home, to drive a very short distance for a walk, there was unprecedented pressure on Scout Scar and on Cunswick Fell. Lock-down coincided with a glorious spring so some week-ends and Bank Holidays drew large numbers and sometimes things were uncomfortable- from sheer numbers, not everyone observing the rules and social distancing or respecting the countryside and its wildlife. Strong winds and cooler weather proved less attractive. Now visitors numbers and ways of being in such places seem more usual. Familiar faces.