There's great excitement in the Dales when the distinctive 'cur-looo" sound is noticed - it heralds the coming of Spring. It's an incredibly evocative sound - conjuring up the feel of wonderfully clear summer days. The curlew has inspired countless artists and writers for generations.
Apparently Robbie Burns once wrote, “I never heard the loud solitary whistle of curlew on a summer noon without feeling an elevation of soul.”
Perhaps another reason why the curlew is much loved is because of the way it looks - quirkily flamboyant!
Curlews have two particularly striking features. Their long legs help it to paddle in mashes and estuaries (their main Winter habitat) and their audaciously long curving beak helps to poke around for worms, insects and molluscs.
Many curlew move to higher moorland areas to breed in Spring, and their diet changes in favour of insects and earthworms found on moorlands and grasslands. The grass comes in handy when they're ready to lay eggs, using it to line their nests, created in a hollow on the ground.
If you see a sign, warning that it's ground nesting season, please do keep dogs on leads as curlew chicks are easily disturbed. We're lucky to see so many curlews in the Yorkshire Dales - their population is threatened. According to the RSPB the number of breeding curlews has halved since the mid-90s, and yet the UK is home to around a quarter of the breeding population so it's important we do all we can to save them.