Skylark sang on Scout Scar, chasing each other, seeing rivals off a territory each hoped to claim. Soaring in song.
Three buzzards sighted over the escarpment, I was told. No sign of the lapwing I'd seen displaying three days ago. So, to Cunswick Fell.
A pair of mistlethrush vocal on Cunswick Fell and hints of song thrush too. Skylark in song but always farther off and out of sight. And cloud gathered, giving a drama to the morning but diminishing the light. Here on these low fells we're on the cusp of spring. Ground-nesting birds might burst into life one day, then be silent the next. You'd think a bright and sunny morning would bring forth activity, once the birds have arrived to seek breeding territories, but their behaviour is unpredictable. Walkers respond to a sunny day and pour forth. Birds may, but there's no guarantee.
When birds are hard to find it's an opportunity to reflect on how these habitats work for them. For lapwing and curlew there is the protection of field walls about the pastures where they lay their eggs on open ground, and rear their young. This is not Access land, no access, no footpaths through it. Skylark and meadow pipit are most vulnerable, breeding on the open fell with little more than tussocky grass to protect their eggs and young. Most walkers tend to follow an on the ground track, it's easier. Dogs off the leash run riot, go sniffing the scrub following a scent.
Monday 22nd, a bright and fair day and I had found skylark and lapwing so returned for more. Nothing. You cannot will birds into action. Spring comes slowly, tentatively, like aconites that only now begin to peep forth.
The Lake District National Park and Natural England have promised notices asking walkers to keep dogs on short leads, to help protect ground-nesting skylark and meadow pipit. And the linnet, stonechat and redpoll which seek the shelter of thorny scrub to breed and cannot tolerate disturbance. Those notices cannot come too soon. They'll raise awareness, help all who care about wildlife to encourage others to respect it too.