The Curlew

Two Curlews by Angela Harding

For the past few months, restricted to local walks from the doorstep, I’ve mainly been wandering around the Plantations, very pleasant woodland of deciduous trees – beech oak, horse chestnut, sycamore, ash and lime – which stretches a couple of miles up to Haigh Hall. I’ve enjoyed exploring the numerous paths, finding new routes, observing the change from winter, to Spring and now Summer. I’ve also enjoyed listening to the birdsong, even attempting to learn how to identify the different species, not with much success, unfortunately!

My walks up on the moors, though, have meant I’ve been able to experience a different landscape, and, with it, different bird life. I heard a cuckoo in the woods on my first wander and heard, and glimpsed lapwings and curlews. The latter two are amongst my favourite birds, their cries being very redolent of wandering on the moors for me and a couple of years ago, after a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park we treated ourselves to a print by the artist Angela Harding of two curlews (see above).

I’ve missed seeing curlews flying across the sky so it was good to spot a pair circling above me during my recent walks and hearing their plaintful, bubbling cry.


Although I often see or hear them during my wanders on moorland or salt marshes by the sea, they’re an endangered species. An initiative has been launched by the RSPB and a campaigning organisation Curlew Action has been established. The latter’s website tells us

Today, widespread changes to our countryside have seen their numbers dramatically decline, especially over the last 40 years. In Southern Ireland curlews have decreased by over 90%, in Wales by over 80% and on average we have lost 60% throughout England and Scotland since the 1980s.

A few weeks ago one of the podcasts I sometimes listen to Trees a Crowd, devoted an episode to the curlew (click on the picture to listen)

and especially for the podcast, a favourite folk singer, Bella Hardy, who hails from Edale in the Peak District, composed a song (again, click on the picture below to listen)

17 thoughts on “The Curlew

  1. I am so glad to hear you can see curlews and hear the cuckoo. Both are becoming so much more rare as we become ever more common. It is good to be reminded they are still there, on the reaching moor.

  2. Love the Angela Harding. Had one of her lovely calenders last year, this year it’s a freebie from one of my other halves cycling mags. Not quite the same! Love curlews and lapwings too. Haven’t heard any cuckoos in my part of the world though for a while unfortunately.

    • You can’t mistake their call though 😊
      If you’re lucky, as they zoom past, you can see their distinctive curved beak. You can just make it out on my photo (if you’ve got very good eyesight) 😉

    • yes, they’re endangered due to a number of factors but especially destruction of their habitat, I think. Same for too many other species, alas.

  3. The Angela Harding print is brilliant – I can see why you would be drawn to that. We’re lucky to have curlews in large numbers in the winter. I’ve been quite surprised to hear a couple when I’ve been out and about this spring, but mostly they’ve disappeared up into the hills, where I haven’t been and frankly, I’m missing them. I shall give the podcast a go, thanks!

    • We bought the print when there was an exhibition of her work at the Yorkshire Sculpture park. there were several limited edition prints for sale and we were tempted by some others too – but chose the curlews.
      I heard a curlew’s call the other day when walking through farmland on the outskirts of town – but that’s only about 6 miles as the curlew flies from the moors.

    • Thanks 🙂
      Although curlews are endangered, I’ve seen a few lately up on the moors, but also during a walk through farmland on the outskirts of town, a couple of miles from home.

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