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South Warwickshire, England.
The Oxhill News
March – the month of new life, named after Mars the Roman god of war. In Anglo-Saxon – Hrethamonarth, the month of the goddess Hretha.
have recently had two reported sightings of snipe (Gallinago gallinago) one
from the long rough meadow by the clay shoot, and one between Oxhill and
Tysoe, and the other morning I heard them.
They will certainly have been attracted by the boggy ground left
from all the recent rain. Their
fondness for mud stems from their fondness for worms and insects, which
they obtain with their long pliable probing beaks.
It has proportionately the longest beak of any European bird and
its eyes are set far back in the head so that it can still see when the
beak is plunged full length into the mud.
The name comes from the old English “snite” and means “a long
thin object”. This name is
commemorated in the
I heard (and only for the second time in my life) was snipe
“drumming”. This is a bit
of a misnomer as the sound is more of a bleat or rattle, and another old
English word for snipe is Haeferblaete or “goat bleater”.
This eerie fluting sound is made with the end wing primary feathers
and outer tail feathers as the bird drops in a deep descent from a high
rapid flight. This is
courtship behaviour and usually takes place in spring and early summer,
although it has been heard throughout the year.
It is one of nature’s strangest sounds and it moves me to wonder
if the 17th century Polish Winged Hussars got their idea from
the snipe, They had
“wings” of feathers attached to the back plate of their cuirasses
(chest and back armour) and when they reached a gallop at the charge the
feathers gave out an eerie high-pitched whistle (or bleat) and this
supposedly struck fear into the enemy.
I would image several hundred snipe “drumming” would certainly
scare a lot of people nowadays.
a period of three days last week I saw a now scarce sight, a flock of
about 30 lapwings. These birds
of farmland have recently seen a dramatic decline in their numbers,
probably due to changes in farming practice.
I remember as a lad seeing vast surging clouds of lapwings and
their haunting cry was commonplace. During
the early 1900s they suffered a similar decline, but this was due to the
fashion of eating plovers eggs. In
useful hint from Arbeau-Orchesographic
of 1588 for the month of March – “Exercise and divert yourself with
dancing. Dancing or saltation
is both a pleasant and a profitable art, which confers and preserves
health: it is proper to youth, agreeable to the old, and suitable to all,
provided fitness of time and place are observed ….. And it is a useful
device for ascertaining whether a person be deformed by the gout
….. or if they emit an unpleasant odour, as of bad meat.”!!
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Last modified: June 04, 2004