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Wolvey Old Cricket Field
Wetland Nature Reserve

Snipe at Wolvey Wetland


Snipe

Snipe are a shy secretive bird rarely seen unless flushed, they are more often seen in winter when birds from the continent migrate to the UK and boost the number of birds. But Snipe are classed as a declining bird and very few places exist where they still breed because wet meadows are usually drained and converted to arable land or to improved grassland.

Wolvey is special and important for snipe because of the areas of marsh in its meadows and on the Old Cricket Field Wetland Nature reserve. It is important to manage this special place well to enable snipe to feed there over winter and if we are very lucky they might possibly breed there!

Snipe face serious problems when their habitat deteriorates.  The birds feed by feeling prey deep in the soil using their long sensitive beak.  If the marshes and meadows are not waterlogged the ground will be too dry and hard for them to feed, making breeding impossible. 

When flushed the birds zig-zag in flight uttering a scraping 'scaap' alarm call. In spring the call is a hollow 'chippa-chippa-chippa' when the birds perform spectacular courtship displays high in the sky. Each male, following a circular route, makes a series of power dives during which the outermost tail-feathers are held out almost at right-angles to the bird's body. Feather vibration in the slipstream produces the remarkable throbbing known as 'drumming'. Drumming takes place throughout the breeding season from April to July and is a truly magical experience.

Once a female snipe is attracted, the male pursues her and dives with wings held above the body in a V-shape often rolling and turning upside-down. The male takes no part in incubation, continuing drumming displays over the nesting territory.  He feeds mostly at night, spending much of the day resting in cover.

A certain amount of grazing is important for breeding waders such as snipe, otherwise vegetation would rapidly become far too dense.  At Wolvey we are developing a management plan which will ensure the rare marshland flowers thrive and the marsh continues to be a special home for wildlife such as snipe.

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