I've recently taken an interest in recording open air spaces such as hills, meadows or fields. This proved to be a bit more difficult than recording woodland or quarries for a number of reasons:
- man-made (or sheep-made) noise can easily pollute these places
- there's far less wildlife than in woodland or forest
- there's little to no reverberation so the sounds are perceived as softer
- wind is a much bigger issue than in woodland
These issues can be mitigated to some extent by doing extensive scouting and by going out to record at night or very early in the morning. The soundscape may change dramatically from day to night though so a good knowledge of bird species and their habits comes in very handy.
At any rate, I'm lucky in that I do a lot of hiking and whenever I find a good place to record in I make note of it. Sometimes it proves to be a disaster when I come back to record (sheep, farm machinery, planes ruin the soundscape) and other times it works great.
Last month I found one of these locations deep in the Pentland Hills just outside Edinburgh. Since then I've been there to record ambiences, and while I was there I heard the distinctive calls of the Common Snipe (Gallinago Gallinago). I made a note of it and then came back at 2am on a still morning so that I could record their courtship displays.
The Snipe is a small and plump member of the Wader family and lives in bogs, marshes and wetland. The most interesting thing about it is that it makes a peculiar fluttery sound as a part of the courtship display. The birds produce these sounds (called "bleating" or "drumming") by flapping the feathers on their tails real fast while they're flying. Here's a short recording of Snipe calling, drumming (and a very vocal Stonechat singing):