Roz Bound is the new Featured Writer with her inspirational new collection The Fireman’s Child. I have known Roz for some years and last time we met we walked to the end of the Cobb in Lyme Regis, her soul place, before she flew back to Canada (where she lives) to start a Doctorate in Wisdom Spirituality. Roz is a deeply inspiring person and, having just turned 60 myself, she makes me realise there are new avenues to explore based on all the accrued experience of the last 6 decades. She called it wisdom, I think. I love her poems for their honesty and poignancy, using ordinary language to mine her life for new discoveries. Now that I am 60 I intend to use the time to consider what I also need to resolve.
But yesterday the sky larks on the moors were effervescent with the feeling of spring. In the evening the wind dropped and it seemed a good moment to search for the beautiful snipe beside the boggy lands below the nearby tor. It was 8.30pm when we arrived and sheep were bleating to their lambs and birds were singing their hearts out in the trees along the brook. In the valley the ringers were practising on the church bells. To hear the courtship of the snipe it needs to be quiet. 8.30 was a bit too early so we had to wait for the birds to stop singing (and none of them wants to be the first to do so) and the moon and a star or two to appear. As dusk falls there is always a sense of expectation. Darkness seems to swoop in by degrees, in gradation. Then the female snipe start calling something like squeaky bicycle wheels, sharp, insistent, shocking cries. They, too, have to wait for the right moment for the males to respond with their whirring, droning mouth-organy hum. I thought I saw a bird shape in the sky but assumed I was imagining it. Something caught my eye whisking through the reeds.
Last night in the near-dark their eerie sound was suddenly all around us though we couldn’t see them. It was as if they flew round and round us on a leash. Were they flying far above us or skimming near the ground? It was as though we had encountered an ancient ritual and ghosts were humming through the air. On a moonlit night apparently the ‘drumming’ continues all night. Why anyone called it drumming I don’t know because it sure isn’t drumming!
I found this amazing information on a BBC website about some recent research and I quote it to you:
‘By going fast and making a lot of noise, the bird is showing prospective mates how fit it is.
The males have a “special tail feather that it can stick out”, Dr Ennos said.
The feathers have a weakened hinge region in their rear vane. The birds dive to increase their speed and make a more attractive higher-pitched sound.
During its courtship display, the male climbs to an altitude of about 50m (165 feet) before diving at about 40 degrees with its two outer tail feathers extended.
The researchers found that when the male birds reached a speed of 50km/h (31mph), the outer feathers produced an audible sound.
The feathers continued to produce the sound until the bird reaches speeds of more than 86km/h (53mph).’
Now how amazing is that? I shall be out there on still, dry nights for the next two weeks or so because once you have heard it you can’t get enough of it! And I love the snipe. There are two poems about them in A Handful of Water.