24 Feb 2014 4:12 PM
In a short series of blogs the RSPB’s Tony Whitehead describes why the Somerset Levels are a special place, and why the RSPB wants them to thrive for both wildlife and people.
Spring 2009. A still, cool, early morning. I’m standing a little way along on one of the droves that, if followed, take you out into the vast flat-lands of West Sedgemoor. I’m listening. Across the moor I hear an impossible sound. In some ways it’s like the whinnying of a horse. In others the bleating of goat. I raise my binoculars but strain to see the creature producing the sound. Fortunately it’s a familiar sound – the “drumming” of a snipe, a bird of which I’m particularly fond, and for which the Levels and Moors are special.
The sound is produced by air rushing across two specially stiffened feathers either side of the tail as the bird plummets to the ground. It’s part of the male‘s courtship display, a marking of territory, an expression of prowess. It’s a sound that, every time I hear it, reminds me that the Levels are a special place. And there are now precious few sites in lowland England where you can hear this.