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Easy to hear, tricky to see

30 July 2014
Snipe.  An elusive little bird that many people have heard this year - whether they knew it or not - but one that is actually quite difficult to see. Lots of folk commented on hearing a strange eerie sound coming from the sky but they couldn't see what bird was making the noise (click to hear the sound of a snipe drumming).
Snipe walking in the meadows

Seeing as many people asked about the snipe I thought I'd write a little bit about them and include the only photographs I've ever managed to take! It's unclear how many pairs breed on Hirta but a wander through the Village, particularly near ditches and in the long vegetation, tends to flush up several birds but their quick movements means only a blurred glimpse is seen. Another snipe in a ditchSnipe flushing from vegetation just outside a cleit

Nests are difficult to find as they are well hidden amongst long vegetation. Often a bird will simply fly off when a person gets too close to the nest but this snipe ran along the ground to draw me away from the nest before circling back without me even noticing! Nest site of a snipe. Can you see it.After flushing from its nest this snipe stayed close by

Snipe eggs and chicks are also cryptically coloured so they won't be seen by predators.  I have only once seen very small snipe chicks out here, they are mobile almost immediately after hatching and are soon led away from the nest site but the parent birds. I think you'll agree snipe chicks are unbelievably cute.The nest with three eggs that the snipe was incubatingSnipe chicks (Photo: Marcus Taylor)

While I was doing early morning puffling patrols I managed to get amazing views of a snipe foraging in the vegetation at the back of the base. There were no other people about and the sheep weren't out grazing so the bird foraged undisturbed. Snipe sitting in the grassSnipe foraging for invertebratesSnipe wandering through the grass


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