To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of curlews. First and foremost, their otherworldly cries at night are downright eerie (they don’t call it ‘the screaming woman bird’ for nothing). But secondly, any creature that’s able to freeze so still they’re completely indistinguishable from a garden ornament, I can’t help but find just a little bit creepy.
I know, I know. It’s judgemental and prejudiced, but I admit it – in the past I’ve found it hard to conjure any warm fuzzy feelings towards curlews.
So when the previous owners of the farm enthusiastically told us about a pair of curlews that lived here I didn’t exactly leap for joy. My lack of enthusiasm quickly became genuine puzzlement when they continued, telling us the curlews were more like pets. Really? Pets?! I thought. Those creepy, staring, night-howling, statue birds? Hm…each to their own, I suppose!
But then we moved in.
Before the cows, before the chickens, before even the guinea fowl, there were the curlews. When the removalist truck pulled up, the curlews stood side-by-side (pretending to be trees) and watched as all of our furniture was unloaded.
And each day after that they were there, trying their best to camouflage – pretending to be leaves one day and tree roots the next. We began to play ‘spot-the-curlew’ any time we went into the yard, seeing what ridiculous act they’d be up to next.
After awhile, we realised there was something strange about our curlews.
“Have you noticed they never cry at night?” my husband said one evening.
I thought for a second. He was right. We had a pair of curlews living on our doorstep and we’d never heard them cry. Not once. For a bird that’s infamous for its cry, that was more than a little odd.
“I wonder why?” I said.
“Maybe they’re happy?” he replied.
After doing a bit of reading online, I found that curlews cry at night when they are disturbed, nesting or feeling threatened. So maybe he was right? Maybe they were just happy?
In my reading I also found that curlews could live for thirty years, in the same pair, calling the same patch of property home. How romantic! The pair of them were probably going to live out their days together on the farm.
Well, by this stage the curlews had thoroughly won me over. Any bird that could commit to the same partner and patch of land for thirty years had to be admired. I began enjoying seeing them about the place and would chat to them as I passed.
Then a few weeks ago we noticed we were only seeing one bird around the farm, not the usual two. We thought perhaps one of the curlews had been frightened off by a dog or the guinea fowl, and maybe it’d show up again soon. But a day or two later we found out why….
We had some family visiting and hubby had taken them for a tour of the farm. They walked past a curlew sitting on a patch of grass in the middle of a clearing. It took fright and ran a few steps – leaving two speckled eggs behind. It was nesting! Thankfully the curlew hadn’t been spooked too badly and quickly returned to the ‘nest’ (A.K.A. bare patch of ground with a stick beside it).
Since then the birds have been taking it in turns looking after the eggs – a very equitable parenting arrangement, really. I can’t help but be impressed by their tenacity – laying eggs in the open and keeping them warm while the Spring rain pours down. Who’d be a curlew?
On an interesting side note, for the first time we’ve heard them calling to one another at night (not often and not for long, but it’s definitely them). Maybe they didn’t need to call before because they were always right next to one another? No need to shout when you can whisper, I suppose.
Any day now, if luck is on their side, the curlews should have a couple of chicks. Fingers crossed all goes well for their little family…