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Tartan, Patchwork, Mohican

This time last year an arrow of golden plovers pointed me in the direction of the Cairngorms. I'm reminded now by the mini murmuration ( or dread) I see over local arable fields. In the evenings a flock of twenty birds flashes like a knife. Catching the light, the birds move as one and disappear on every turn. They are nervy in the last of the sun, the moment when the day is stoked in a final brief burst of bright. When they finally land they dissolve instantly in a camouflage of clay and chalk.

The collective noun for plovers is a deceit, but I think of golden plovers as a shimmer. I once pulled up for a lunch break at a sunny spot on a hill. A dread of golden plover wheeled and settled. On this occasion what they were dreading was a hailstorm.

Like snow buntings, ring ouzels, wheatears, and dotterels, golden plovers are birds of mountain and moorland. All are visitors that winter in East Anglia or pass through on their way north in spring. Wheatears perch on my roof, and the po…

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