The sheep and pony tracks across the soggy common make excellent routes from which to flush snipe. They’re so easy to find; walking will usually put them up, but a sharp handclap invariably sends one or two twisting away low over the grass. They always call, but I rarely see them before they flush, or after they land. Perhaps four or five rise every 50 yards; I wonder how many there are on the vast common, certainly hundreds, maybe more.
A little stream in a hollow provides some shelter from the stiff, cold, easterly wind. I huddle low, watching a smart male reed bunting picking at leftover seeds by the water’s edge. Is it the same bird as last year? It’s hard to say, although his jet-black head markings and white collar look familiar. Males vary, and can be very distinctive, and I’m convinced the same bird has taken this territory for the last two years. He doesn’t sing; maybe it’s late in the day, or too early in the season, but he’ll soon take up his familiar position on a favoured isolated willow and advertise for a mate.
The little warmth from the sun attracts pairs of circling buzzards searching for elusive thermals, the males tumbling as they try to impress; they’ll soon build nests in the woodland on the edge of the common. On the ground a meadow pipit braves the chilly wind, I suspected they were here, but like most things are keeping low in the still desolate dead grass. I had hoped for a first wheatear, but that would have been a bonus.