A Tale of Three Birds: Chapter Two: the Curlew

We went to Colsterdale on Sunday.  It’s nearby, but feels remote and isolated, because the only road through leads nowhere very much and so it remains one of North Yorkshire’s best kept secrets.  Perfect for a Day Out whilst maintaining that all-important Social Distance.

Edged by the pastoral views of farming country, it climbs to become stark, treeless, commanding views to the distant North York Moors, and to the higher parts of the Pennines.  Its ascetic bleakness is what appeals to me.

 

We’d almost reached the area where we planned to park and begin our walk, when I saw them.  There!  There on the roadside!  Look! Two curlews, almost within touching distance.  These are shy, beautifully camouflaged birds normally only seen and heard as they quarter the sky, calling the evocative plaintive sound – ‘cur-lee, cur-lee’ – which gives them their name.  These two were probably drawing a would-be predator away from the nest.

Whatever the reason, it was such a privilege to watch these birds at close quarters, with their mottled, camouflaging plumage, and their distinctive long downward-curving beaks.

YouTube RSPB video

They flew away after a couple of minutes, and we began our walk, relishing the space, the wild emptiness and the only sounds those of distant curlews.

Jo’s Monday Walk

Addendum: several commenters have expressed surprise about the curlew frequenting moorland.  Just to show how very much at home the bird is in these surroundings, here is proof.  It is the symbol for the nearby long distance walk, the Nidderdale Way.  FAO Jude, Agnes

geograph.org..uk

47 thoughts on “A Tale of Three Birds: Chapter Two: the Curlew”

  1. Loved the Moors, especially on a Bank Holiday when we would drive to Chop Gate and walk in peace and quiet. The circular walks from there being too long for most people 😁 who usually parked up at Clay Bank.

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  2. What a special moment, Margaret! 🙂 🙂 As you know, I’m not good at identifying them but these are beautiful, as are their surrounds. Sometimes walking across the marshes here we are repeatedly screamed at by divebombing parent birds. Well, we assume it’s that, but it may be personal dislike 🙂 Many thanks for linking!

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    1. These are so easily identified – you don’t need to be a twitcher. As to linking with your walks – we never know if it will be your last!

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      1. We actually struggle sometimes to identify them in Portugal because there are so many Whimbrels, and at a distance those beaks can be confusing and the eye lines difficult to see. Well we say that until we hear a Curlew and then of course we know!!

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  3. I associate curlews with the coast, as they are wading birds, but on googling them I see they do occupy boggy moorland too. How magnificent to come across them.

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    1. How funny! To me curlews are quintessentially the bird of the Yorkshire Dales – in fact I’ve never seen one on the coast. They’re wonderful wherever you see them.

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  4. Looks like a great place to go for a hike. How far did you hike?

    I have a date with the arboretum this afternoon… they shut down in April and have recently ‘opened’ up for timed entry for members only. Looking forward to a long walk listening to nature – the birds, the insects, and the rustle of the leaves in the wind. I am sure I’ll here the cars driving past on the freeway and an occasional airplane as it is on the flyway into O’Hare. But I am looking forward to the hike. Peace.

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    1. Oh, have a wonderful time at the arboretum – how special. Malcolm doesn’t walk so far these days, so it was only about five miles. I’m planning a longer sortie with a friend next week. Socially Distanced of course!

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  5. Oh my, another wonderful post! Despite my years in Leeds as a child I’d never heard of Colsterdale and you capture its character well. Love the photo of the broad shallow valley with the reservoir in the distance on such a beautiful blue-skied day. It must be wild and bleak often. And the photos of the curlews are magnificent, especially that first one with the open bill. Open or closed it’s a beautiful shape. Glad there were sound effects on the video. Alas I think I’m even less likely to see a curlew than a mistle thrush here in London. I do associate them with marshland though even more than the sea. Think Britten’s Curlew River is set in the fens, or rather the poem he set to music is.

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  6. My brother-in-law is into bird-watching, so before the lock down I’d enjoy joining him and my sister for a walk in our surrounding countryside in Worcestershire and Shropshire. I’m always fascinated by his keen eye and ability to spot the wildlife around us.

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  7. How exciting to see them on the ground and to be able to photograph them too. Their bills are impressive and their plumage is lovely. I associate curlews with the Yorkshire moors on account of books I read as a teenager that mentioned the wild call of the curlews over the moorlands, but I have never heard them – so thanks for including the recording. What a wild and plaintive call – I imagine that their calls from above over the moors is a fitting soundtrack especially at the bleaker times of the year or season.

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  8. How wonderful to see curlews! I haven’t encountered any since our Scottish adventures (Highlands and Islands) in 2004. They were in every field there, it seemed, but I know the species has been in decline since then. I’ve recently read Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell and would commend it to you.

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    1. I’ve made a note of that – thanks so much. I’ve been back among the curlews today – so wonderful to see so many on the moors – and to hear them too.

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  9. I love the call of curlews – thanks for the recording. The sound always reminds me of long moorland hikes with my father and his ‘short-cut home’ which never was because his sense of direction was dire!

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