On Waders

Walk out to An Sean Dun on a pleasant evening, and you will hear one of nature’s most evocative songs: that of the Eurasian Curlew.

At first they whistle uncertainly among themselves, shuffling about over weedy rocks on the shore. The dark lines of their bills curve down like ribs. The brown chevrons on their plumage tremble with expectation.

Then, one breaks free. It releases an upwelling of bubbling notes that cascade out in an ecstasy of purpose. Others take flight. Together, their golden voices rain down with wild and alien beauty as they rise up and over the ridge.

If you continue out towards Loch Tor, Northern Lapwings flicker and stall between rocky promontories. Their rounded wings almost swat the bog asphodel as males jink through their display flight.

Just as Curlews stir a sense of wilderness, Lapwings seem playful and high-spirited to us. In reality they are deeply territorial; driving away rivals and intruders with persistent chasing. Their voice almost defies description – falling somewhere between 80’s synth-pop and a whale on recreational drugs.

Sadly, both Curlew and Lapwing are declining in Britain as their wet grassland habitat disappears.

Stephanie Cope

Glengorm Wildlife Steward

A Eurasian Curlew flies low over the sands at Calgary Bay, Mull