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It’s that infuriating time of year when winter and spring seem to be battling for dominance. However, there have been several days in the past week or two when Spring definitely has had the upper hand.

It’s that infuriating time of year when winter and spring seem to be battling for dominance. However, there have been several days in the past week or two when Spring definitely has had the upper hand.

Saturday was such as day, when hordes of trippers headed to Largs to enjoy the sun.

It was also a day when nature seemed to be alive and well after its winter slumbers. Bumblebees were zooming around my garden like mini-drones and, elsewhere, there were sightings of chiffchaffs, one of the early spring migrants.

I headed for the hills and spent a rewarding couple of hours in Muirshiel Regional Park.

Birdsong was immediately audible as I stepped out of the car. Curlews, skylarks and meadow pipits were in fine voice, a welcome indication that spring had already arrived on the uplands.

The curlew is a common species around the North Ayrshire coast, and they head inland to breed in March and April.

It has a hauntingly beautiful call — sometimes described as a bubbling trill — which is so evocative of the Ayrshire moors during springtime.

They are also easy to identify, being the largest of our wading birds, with a long down-curved beak and mottled brown plumage.

The hills around Largs also have skylarks — a species that is declining in almost all countries of northern and western Europe.

Information from the RSPB shows that, in the UK, the population halved during the 1990s, and is still declining. In their preferred habitat of farmland, skylarks declined by 75% between 1972 and 1996.

The main cause of this decline is considered to be the widespread switch from spring to autumn-sown cereals, which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of chicks raised each year.

Autumn-sown cereals are taller and denser throughout the season and fewer birds nest there.

Let’s hope this species, celebrated by poets and writers for its song, will continue to thrive in the North Ayrshire uplands.

dcarnduff@cfpress.co.uk