Monday, May 16, 2022

Cuckoos, lapwings and curlews in the Shropshire Hills

And I can't remember the last time I heard a cuckoo, yet when I was a child you expected to hear one on any spring or summer walk.

The cuckoo is not the only bird that is disappearing from Shropshire. When Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine Club (the thinking child's Famous Five) formulated its rules at its camp on the Long Mynd, the members found it natural to adopt the cry of the peewit (or lapwing) as their secret signal.

I knew the late Robert Smart, who had been a friend of Saville's and published several books of walks in the Shropshire Hills. The last time we met he told me he hadn't seen a lapwing on the Mynd for years. That must take us back to the turn of this century.

The only place I have seen Lapwings is the Outer Hebrides. The are entertaining birds - tumbling yet slightly pompous with it - that remind you of Dickensian clerks.

But the bird that really makes me think of the Shropshire hills is the curlew. When I started visiting the Stiperstones in the 1980s, the bird's haunting cry told me that I was getting near the summit ridge.

Today the curlew is in danger of going the same way as the lapwing, but there are people working to save it.

The film below threatens to be overwhelmingly sad, but hold on for a more hopeful ending.

But it's a sad fact that 50 years or more of environmental activism have not been enough to save what used to be everyday birds in these hills.

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