Category Archives: 08) Waders

Common Snipe

Low light digiscoping

Hey Martin,

Thought you might be interested in this short video clip. Why am I sending you a video of a Common Snipe? Well yes it is a stunning bird, but it is the circumstance of videoing the bird that is astonishing. It was around 4pm, very nearly dark, as it is, in the UK at this time of the year.

I was having a last look out of the Living Room window, before settling down for the evening, when I noticed this Snipe.

I quickly fitted my Canon 70D camera to my Swarovoski 95mm ATX Scope via a Swarovski TLS adapter, and raced outside, to try to capture some film. I am simply amazed at the “light gathering properties” of the Swarovoski Scope, I ‘maxed out the zoom, to 70x and captured the attached video. It would be an under statement to say I blown away by the video quality………How can a scope produce a brighter image than the ambient natural light?

Dave Tucker

A troublesome juvenile Stint

in Devon

Peter Aley

On 19th October 2014, whilst on a regular circuit of my local patch – the Plym Estuary – I came across a small wader roosting at high tide with a couple of Ringed Plovers and some Turnstones. Its’ tiny size, and neat proportions rapidly brought me to the conclusion that it was a “stint/peep” and the grey tones pointed to the possibility of a Semipalmated Sandpiper.

I alerted a handful of other birders who I knew would be nearby and after watching and discussing the bird for a short time, we all agreed to put the news out as a probable Semi-p. By nightfall a dozen or so birders had seen the bird and all agreed the news could safely be put out as confirmed.

The bird was not particularly close but we were struck by the grey tones, short primary extension, and lack of solid centres to the scapulars (the internal markings narrowing at the base with some discussion over whether they could be described as anchors or arrow heads). No pale mantle nor scapular lines were evident and some observers were happy they had seen a blob-ended bill. The first two photos below – my poor quality digi-scoped shots – give an idea of the sort of views and impression of the bird, at this time.   s1 s2 The following day, more observers saw the bird and everyone seemed happy with the ID, with no-one (to my knowledge) raising any doubts. On this occasion (despite the bird being mainly more distant than the day before) I noticed a narrow pale mantle “V” but this appeared pretty indistinct. However, that evening, I reflected on this, together with the fact I wasn’t sure any credible anchors were apparent on the scapulars and (try as I might) I couldn’t see a bill blob in the field nor in my pics. The lack of solid scapular internal markings and short primary projection, seemed inconsistent with Little Stint and it “felt” like a Semi-p, but I just didn’t have anything really concrete on which to nail it.

I phoned Mashuq Ahmad to share my concerns, and during the ¾ hour phone conversation, he imparted a wealth of useful information, while we looked at the photos. This reinforced my concerns and we both agreed the ID couldn’t be 100% certain. Late that evening I posted a short note on the Devon Bird News blog saying I had some niggling doubts and appealing for views and better photos.

Despite this, by the following evening (after my further views and photos proven inconclusive) no-one had communicated any doubts. My frustration levels were rising but then Alan Doidge emailed me a series of excellent pictures he had taken that afternoon (below) including some close shots of the feet which clearly showed no palmations – it was a Little Stint! s5 s3   Soon after this, Killian Mullarney, contacted me having picked up the “story” from the Devon Birds News blog and asked to see the clinching photos. He has commented as follows:-

“Thank you very much for forwarding me Alan Doidge’s excellent shots of your tricky stint. I must admit, I was all prepared to present a case for it being a Semipalmated on which the palmations were not visible, which can sometimes happen, until I saw the photos; you are of course absolutely correct in determining that it is indeed a Little Stint and kudos to you for having been so cautious about your ID from the outset.

I sometimes come across occasional tricky Little Stints, especially in late autumn. The ones that are most prone to being mistaken for Semipalmateds are birds that have lost much of their bright colouration as a result of fading/bleaching and, in addition, have commenced the post-juvenile moult with replacement of the outer rows of mantle feathers and third row of scapulars (which diminishes /eliminates the characteristic white mantle/scapular stripes). The initial photos of your bird suggest a Semipalmated-like uniformity to the upperparts, without much warmth and seemingly without any hint of light mantle stripes, and there is no indication of the bird having commenced moult. It also has a rather short primary-projection compared to most Little Stints.

However, Alan’s much better shots establish that it does in fact have distinct white mantle stripes, they are just not visible in the initial shots. All other details, such as the crown pattern, breast-side streaking and detailed pattern/shape of the upperparts feathers are more indicative of Little Stint than Semipalmated; of course the clear absence of palmations confirms that it is not a Semipalmated! By the way, some Semipalmateds have a bill that really isn’t significantly more blob-tipped’ than Little Stint, so I would not be too concerned about the absence of that feature on a putative Semip.”

 

Mashuq Ahmad summed it up nicely saying:-

“The feet don’t lie! Some of Alan Doidge’s quality shots, also shows a pro-Little Stint, obvious pale mantle line and to a lesser extent a more obvious pale scapular line (which has seemingly been reduced somewhat by wear). The bill shape is also very evident in these shots.

These features, plus other pointers e.g. internal scap’ pattern, relatively pale ear-coverts, boldly marked breast-sides and general shape and structure, should also help put to bed thoughts of a greyer Red-necked Stint (which should also really be considered, now that it has been established that the bird lacks palmations). All in all a difficult bird to sort out but you got there in the end!”

The episode reinforces how tricky some Little Stints can be to identify, especially in late autumn. I am grateful to Killian, Mush and Alan for their respective contributions to the learning around this challenging bird.

Pete Aley, Plymouth

peteraley@msn.com

 

Comment from Ontario added 11th Dec 2014

Hi Peter and Martin.

I thought I would add a bit from a North American perspective on that stint. First off, I agree that it is a juvenile-first winter Little Stint. One feature which is particularly evident in the best photo, which shows the bird in profile, involves primary tip position versus the longest tertial. I don’t think there was any mention of this in the various discussions. I should also say that I have studied Little Stint, especially juveniles, in many photographs in anticipation of getting very lucky and finding one here in southern Ontario. At present, there are only two records so far for this species in the province.

To get back to the point, juvenile Semipalmated (and Western) Sandpipers are quickly recognized for their “stumpy ended” gestalt which creates a rather short primary tip projection, with only juvenile Least Sandpiper’s being shorter. To be more precise, P8 only extends a short way past the tip of the longest tertial. P7 falls a fair bit short of it. Though difficult to see in the field, top notch photos of birds in profile show this consistently in my experience. In the photograph of the Devon bird, I can see a fair projection of P8, but just as importantly, the tip of P7 appears to lie just about beside the tip of the longest tertial. I should say that I have found this character in the vast majority if not all of the photographs I have referenced on juvenile Little Stint. Though perhaps not having the diagnostic caliber of relative toe structure, I feel this is a very good ID indicator for juveniles in these species.

Kevin McLaughlin, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Four of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

One of the chapters covers Common and Faroe Snipe and Wilson’s Snipe. There is also an additional two page spread on ageing snipe. I am learning so much about them. I think Wilson’s Snipe is surely overlooked, so it’s my top-of-the-list target birds this autumn (first week of October to be precise). Quite fancy one on my local pool at Thornwick. For now here are some juvenile Common Snipe- easy to age in this plumage 😉  For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

Juvenile Common Snipe by Alan Walkington. Thornwick Pool August 2014

Juvenile Common Snipe by Alan Walkington. Thornwick Pool August 2014

 

 

juvenile Common Snipe Thornwick Pool, 30th July 2014. Digiscoped by Martin Garner

juvenile Common Snipe Thornwick Pool, 30th July 2014. Digiscoped by Martin Garner

 

 

Curlew showing characters of orientalis

Still exploring this subject…

Martin Garner

The time of year and a phone call from a friend about a pale  and long-billed looking Curlew presently at  Spurn, prompted me to dig this out. It’s a candidate orientalis Curlew from 10 years ago. The key features are reviewed and feedback welcome. With fond memories of the late Russell Slack, it was originally published on the Birdguides webzine.
 

This paper just published (authors inc, BF team member Andrea Corso) jam-packed with relevant feathers details.

A ‘wader-fest’ was what I had in mind for 20th July 2004 with fellow birder and BirdGuides doyen, Russell Slack. Unfortunately, Russ cried off at the last minute leaving me to peruse migrating shorebirds unaided. I arrived around 6:00 am at Paull Holme Strays (east of Hull in East Yorkshire on the Humber shore), which is an excellent shorebird hotspot. Among the dozen or so Curlew, I noticed one bird which was immediately paler looking with neat lines of pencil streaks along the breast and upper flanks. It caused me to wonder about the possibility of it being of the eastern taxon orientalis. I knew these were supposed to have gleaming white underwings, so when it took off and showed…gleaming white underwings, I was a bit bothered. Surely there had to be something wrong? Maybe it was a juvenile local Curlew. I had only had relatively brief views and with the tide coming in, I decided to head on to Spurn. I returned later in the afternoon when the tide had receded and relocated the bird in the same spot. Despite being a little distant in rather murky light I was able to get good views and take notes, as well as obtain a few photos over the next hour or so.

Curlew: Paull Holme Strays, E. Yorks. Adult summer plumage showing features of the race orientalis (Photo: Martin Garner) Curlew: Paull Holme Strays, E. Yorks. Adult summer plumage showing features of the race orientalis (Photo: Martin Garner)
Curlew: North Killingholme, Lincs. Adult summer plumage of the nominate race (Photo: Martin Garner) Curlew: North Killingholme, Lincs. Adult summer plumage of the nominate race (Photo: Martin Garner)

In summary, it was clearly paler overall, both on upperparts and underparts and at the longer-billed and longer-legged end of the Curlew spectrum. I reckoned it to be a tad longer-legged than most other Curlew present. The upperparts (whose detail I also studied later in the photographs) appeared to be an adult breeding pattern, with clear notching (holly leaf) on some scapulars and prominent pale and dark barring on the coverts. The coverts in particular had rather whitish fringing and were paler-looking than on other Curlew present. The underparts were even more striking with a pale buff ground colour to the upper-breast, ending in a vague pectoral band. The lower breast ground colour was white, as were the belly and undertail coverts…gleaming white. Overlaid on these, the breast and flanks were marked with neat thin pencil-line streaks. These were a little broader lower down (like a stretched teardrop) and on the area of flanks closest to the wing the streaking was slightly broader with a single line running at right angles to the dark shaft streak producing an ‘L’ shaped mark. There was however none of the heavier streaking, barring and arrowheads normally found on our Curlews in adult-type plumages. The belly was almost entirely plain and gleaming white and the flank streaking only extended down the legs and scarcely beyond. Again, most of the other Curlews were not so strikingly white, with a more extensive buff wash on the underparts with streaking being bolder and more extensive. The head pattern was paler and more open-faced with prominent whitish supercilium which looked unstreaked.

While variable 🙂 … more obvious example of orientalis shows this features in combination:

* overall paler than nominate arquatus * longer-billed and longer-legged * different pattern of fringing on coverts, lacking obvious cross barring * whiter underparts and cleaner white back and rump * outer primaries wholly dark on inner web (or almost) like Slender-billed Curlew * less and especially narrower dark bars on whiter tail * mostly/wholly white underwings (regular in Curlews in NW Europe) * tertials almost reaching primary tips

Several times the bird stretched its wings high, revealing what appeared to be wholly white underwing coverts and axillaries, the only exception being 2 or 3 thin brown bars traversing the feather near the tip of one of the axillaries. In flight it was also possible to see there was some wing moult taking place with the bird apparently missing one or two innermost primaries.

Overall, the combined pattern of upperparts, underparts, underwings, leg and bill length point to the possibility of the bird being a Curlew of the eastern race orientalis.

The orientalis race of Curlew is long overdue to be recorded in this country. It is a much longer distance migrant than our nominate birds, wintering as far west as the Gulf of Guinea in west Africa right down to South Africa. It is already well known from the eastern Mediterranean and BWP indicates that it appears to have been occurring increasingly westward in its migration strategy over the 20th century. The Curlew Sandpipers and Pectoral Sandpipers in the country on that day were probably from at least as far east. We are likely to get some pure and some intergraded type orientalis as indicated by BWP, and perhaps the 2-3 brown bars at the axillary tip may indicate this. I’m still left with some questions: I’d have liked a freeze-frame of the underwing, more flight views showing inner-wing and rump and tail pattern and the exact details of primary moult.

Postscript: A feature I have noticed subsequently and which I tentatively suggest as being helpful is that orientalis tend to have tertials which overlap most ot the primaries so the tip of the tertials can be almost as long as the primary tips. On nominate arquata Curlews, the tertials tips reach only as far as folded p8, thus well short of the tail tip. The tertial/tail tip/primary tip positions on the Paull bird are close to orientalis in arrangement on several photos.

Thanks to Richard Millington for his very helpful input.

Curlews from the East…

orientalis and suschkini questions

In the next month or so, migrant Curlew will appear in the UK, some from further east. With the paper just published in British Birds magazine it reminded me of this  blast for the past which remains unresolved for me.
 

Martin Garner

Curlew are alredy on the move- at least on Britain’s east coast. Be interested to know if you see any like this one:

curlew-25-july-09-spurn-3

This is an old chestnut. A Curlew which rabbed my attention in July 2009 on the shoreline along Spurn Peninsula. Watched feeding with another bird, the intriguing feature were the flanks- with fine pencil-like streaks and very little cross-barring. A flank pattern more in keeping with the eastern form ‘orientialis’. Then it flew and I managed a few flight shots.

Were there any more interesting features? The underwing appeared all white- well not especially unusual among migrating Curlew in Britain. BUT the tail pattern was unusual. Have a look for yourself. I wondered of it fit the little know taxon suschkini

Following his paper published this month in British Birds, Andrea Corso commented on this bird as follows:

“I think that WP populations of Numenius arquata ssp. is far more variable that we all think, and that birds from Eastern Europe to Middle East to Near East and Russia have such a great deal of intermediates/clinal birds and populations, that is a huge mess to try to ID an out of range sushkini or orientalis even….

Your bird is to my eye surely an “eastern” birds, 2cy, so that’s why fine underparts streaking, not orientalis due to very slender and delicate and short bill, legs and wings….   so they could be either the so called “sushkini” or simply birds from one of those populations that intergrade with this taxon or even nominate arquata-orientalis showing mixed characters.

We really need for those birds isotopic or genetic data to undertsand from where they come…

But, sure, worthwhile studying these birds 🙂

Andrea”

 
Curlew 1 25  July 09 021 Curlew 2 25  July 09 025 Curlew 5 25  July 09 028 Curlew 6 25  July 09 029

 

 

Woodcock: Seeing them in the Daytime

At Flamborough

by Martin G.

A rare sight! In case your interested… at least 3 Woodcock can be seen again day roosting and sometimes feeding in South Landing ravine, Flamborough.  Just view about half way down road to Lifeboat station and South Landing beach. This post from March 2013, same place

woodcock s landing a 11.03.2013

Capturing a moment… and the details. I guess that’s ultimately why I love taking photos. I have lots of stories of mediocre photography and failed efforts! ‘Digiscoping’ is undoubtedly the realm of bird and wildlife photography I have struggled with the most. Fundamentally the art is to take photos with an ordinary ‘family’ camera by placing the camera lens up to a high powered birding telescope so that the ‘scope effectively becomes a super lens for the camera. I did ‘OK’ about 10 years ago by hand holding a Nikon Coolpix up to my scope. However with new cameras, heralded as the route to new heights of photo quality- I only seemed to get worse despite careful coaching by friends. Honestly, I was ready to give up. It seemed too complicated, the results often poor and seemingly interfering with ‘birding’. More recently however, spurred on by the quality of images and especially video which James Lees (Slimbridge WWT warden) was achieving and with regular encouragements from Paul Hackett and others, I opted to have one more go. Over the last couple of years I feel like I have broken through- a little. For a lot of photography I use DSLR camera – a Canon 7D with 400 f5,6 lens  It does an amazing job. However sometimes the birds are simply too far away. Then the digiscoping kicks in. Furthermore, with digiscoping,  I love that you can do video!

Woodcock at South Landing, Flamborough.

Up to 3 birds are roosting on the far side of the ravine, occasionally coming out to feed. It was a good test being very windy, with variable light from grey cloud and snow showers to odd bursts of sunshine. And the birds were in open or under poorly light canopy. It was too far to get a really nice DSLR shot (see below). I used a Canon S95 Camera taking photos through a Swarovski ATX95 ‘scope. There camera is held securely in place by a gizmo called the DCB ll swing adaptor.

woodcock s landing a2 11.03.2013Woodcock, South Landing, Flamborough (above and top). A lovely looker with American Woodcock-like grey strips.

On Video: Woodcock and Worms

I have several sections of video of both birds which too me look really good! However when I uploaded to YouTube  the compression? of the file just made it look ‘orrible. So I am trying Vimeo (basic) with one section and welcome suggestion on how to get the best out of publishing videos online. Only a few seconds, have a look:

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woodcock s landing bird b 11.03.2013Woodcock, South Landing, Flamborough. A more typical looking browner bird which kept to the deeper shaded zones. Amazes me what can be achieved. No it hasn’t one of the notorious ‘half-bills’. In fact the bill tip is covered in mud.

Perspective

woodcock watching

watching woodcock Illustrating the view and distance  The Woodcock were mid way up the far slope.

In Comparison:

To compare digiscoping with normal photography I include  2 shots of the first bird above, but this time taken with the Canon DSLR and 400mm lens. Acceptable, but heavily cropped due to the distance and I don’t think the results are as good. Also don’t think I cold get anything like the same quality of video!

woodcock 7d c

woodcock 7dWoodcock, South Landing, Flamborough. Upper 2 shots using ‘normal’ technique with Canon 7D and 400mm lens.

Thanks to Brett Richards.

in association with Swarovski Optik

thumb2

Swinhoe’s and Pin-tailed Snipes- Display Sounds

 Magnus Hellström

A big warm welcome to new Birding Frontiers team member,  Magnus Hellström. Read his biog and see his gripping photo at the end of this post.

Citrine Wagtails and Long-toed Stints fed along the water edge, and a beautiful Rubythroat started to sing from the bushes next to us. A couple of Snipes took off and shortly after three Swinhoe’s and two Pin-tailed started to display intensively and simultaneously above our heads!”Recounting adventures from summer 2013 in Russia’s Eastern Sayan Mountains, Magnus talks about differences in sounds of the display flights of both species. Might even be useful on vagrants which can display… Read on and listen:

OK, I understand this topic is slightly off season but, nevertheless, it will also raise some questions that might as well be discussed during mid-winter (and, who knows, may perhaps also serve as an inspiration for next year’s trip planning). Some of you will probably not find anything new here, but it still serve as a good example of the process of learning…

Pin-tailed Snipe, Eastern Sayan Mountain, Russia in June 2013. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

Pin-tailed Snipe, Eastern Sayan Mountain, Russia in June 2013. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

 

Today, sound recordings of Pin-tailed and Swinhoe’s Snipes may not be too difficult to find. But the situation was rather the opposite only ten years ago, especially if you were searching for multiple recordings of the full display (high-flight, dive and ascent).

The display from both species is structurally quite similar with:

  • 1) a monotonous and highly repetitive sound given during the high-flight
  • 2) an accelerating whining during the steep dive and
  • 3) finishing with a small cascade of short notes just when leaving the dive and entering the ascent.

This was more or less all I knew when I made my first visits in Siberian Russia. I had some frustrating encounters of displaying Snipes in Siberia during three different years in mid-2000’s; at a taiga bog close to Irkutsk, at a vast area of mowed meadow lands just east of the delta at Lake Baikal’s northern tip and also at the Tunka Wetlands, a huge low-land area of open and grazed wetlands, a couple of hours driving southwest of Irkutsk. According to some references the southern populations of Pin-tailed is primarily found in the mountains. This made me suppose (without really knowing) that the Snipes I heard probably were Swinhoe’s which, according to the same sources, inhabit the taiga and forest edges in the low-lands. Today I am not quite sure that these broad generalizations holds true, and to add further trouble it seems that both species display during migration (just like our European Snipes).

 

Taiga bog close to Irkutsk. A couple of Swinhoe’s/Pin-tailed snipes displayed here during a visit in June 2005. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

Taiga bog close to Irkutsk. A couple of Swinhoe’s/Pin-tailed snipes displayed here during a visit in June 2005. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

 

For me, the turning point came a couple of years later during a new visit to the Tunka Wetlands together with, among others, Rasmus Mäki, Ville Kirstilä and Tomi Kaijanen, who had enjoyed the first Swinhoe’s Snipe for Finland a year earlier. During a night walk we stumbled upon a Snipe in full display and my travel mates verbal comparison with the Finnish Swinhoe’s left little reason to doubt that the bird above our head was a Pin-tailed.

A view over the Tunka Valley, SW of Irkutsk. Displaying Pin-tailed Snipes were present here in both June 2010 and June 2013

A view over the Tunka Valley, SW of Irkutsk. Displaying Pin-tailed Snipes were present here in both June 2010 and June 2013

Preparing for a new visit in Russia this spring (May/June 2013) I was hoping for new opportunities to gain experience of the Snipes. We had terrific, but Snipe-less birding in both steppe and taiga before we entered alpine habitat in the Eastern Sayan Mountains.

During our third evening in the area we endured a short but heavy snowstorm. Small banks of snow packed up by our wind torn tents, but an hour later the wind disappeared completely and the temperature rose above zero. As the snow melted we went out and sat down enjoying the quiet evening by the shore of a small lake close to our base camp on c. 2000 m.a.s.l. Citrine Wagtails and Long-toed Stints fed along the water edge, and a beautiful Rubythroat started to sing from the bushes next to us. A couple of Snipes took off and shortly after three Swinhoe’s and two Pin-tailed started to display intensively and simultaneously above our heads! The birds were present during the whole evening and the morning after, providing superb opportunities to compare their respective repertoires. To me, this experience of simultaneously display from both species was very educative, with clear differences found between them.

The most obvious ones seems to be found in:

a) the monotonous and repetitive sound made during high-flight, and in

b) the small cascade of short notes after the dive, when entering the ascent:

 

a) In Swinhoe’s the high-flight sound is a “kxr-kxr-kxr-kxr-kxr…”, rather harsh with an obvious ‘r-component’ involved. This should be compared to the corresponding sound from Pin-tailed; a rather childish and slightly squeeky “chz-chz-chz-chz-chz…” lacking the above ‘r-sounds’ heard from Swinhoe’s.

.

b) More or less the same also goes for the ending cascade where Swinhoe’s gives lots of deep crunchy “kxr” notes while Pin-tailed is, again, softer and more nasal, lacking the ‘r-quality’ and sounding more like some kind of a toy… The harsh sounds from Swinhoe’s have sometimes been compared to the Garganey while the softer Pin-tailed have been likened with the hissing sounds from displaying Capercaillie.

 

These differences where very consistent, also in other individuals (Pin-tailed) heard at other locations during the trip.

 

Have a listen to the recordings made during this concert and compare sonagrams:

Pintail Snipe high flight sound Eastern Sayan Mtn, MayJune 2013 Magnus Hellström

Pintail Snipe high flight sound Eastern Sayan Mtn, MayJune 2013 Magnus Hellström

 

Pintail Snipe whining running into ending cascade Eastern Sayan Mtns, May-June 2013 Magnus Hellström

Pintail Snipe whining running into ending cascade Eastern Sayan Mtns, May-June 2013 Magnus Hellström

Swinhoe's Snipe high flight sound Eastern Sayan Mtns, May-June 2013 Magnus Hellström

Swinhoe’s Snipe high flight sound Eastern Sayan Mtns, May-June 2013 Magnus Hellström

Swinhoe's Snipe whining running into ending cascade Eastern Sayan Mtns, May-June 2013 Magnus Hellström

Swinhoe’s Snipe whining running into ending cascade Eastern Sayan Mtns, May-June 2013 Magnus Hellström

 

Then have a listen to the full display sounds of both species:

 

 

(The recordings were made with a Canon 7D camera without external microphone, hence the noise level is a bit higher than wished).

 

Rather easy to tell apart, aren’t they!? Again, this may not be new to you, but still posed a bit of a frustrating problem for me only a couple of years ago (in the pre-Xeno-Canto era…).

 

Eastern Sayan Mountains, June 2013. The Snipes were displaying at our base camp (and the lake just left of the camp) visible in the lower part of the image. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

Eastern Sayan Mountains, June 2013. The Snipes were displaying at our base camp (and the lake just left of the camp) visible in the lower part of the image. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

 

Tranquility in the mountains. The same lake as in the photo above. Three Swinhoe’s and two Pin-tailed was present here in June 2013. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

Tranquility in the mountains. The same lake as in the photo above. Three Swinhoe’s and two Pin-tailed was present here in June 2013. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

 

During a subsequent discussion on the subject, Lars Svensson raised the question whether I’d heard “tic-ka tic-ka tic-ka…” calls from the Pin-tailed Snipes, similar to the ones heard from Common Snipe on breeding grounds? Such sounds can be heard on Veprintsev’s recording of Pin-tailed Snipe (Birds of the Soviet Union: A Sound Guide). On the same recording Common Snipe displays in the background, and that species was obviously present on the locality as well. It seems reasonable to ask the question whether it is possible that a mistake have been made: did the wrong species end up on tape, or does Pin-tailed actually have a corresponding call? A recording of Pin-tailed Snipe on Schulze (Vogelstimmen) also include“Tic-ka”-calls, and on that one display of Pin-tailed is heard in the background. “Tic-ka”-calls were heard at several sites where Pin-tailed Snipes were present in the Sayan and the Tunka Valley 2013, but on the same spots there were also Common Snipes present, and I cannot say for sure which of the birds that produced the sound. Readers of this should feel very welcomed to add any further information or experience to the above…

Happy New Snipe-year!

The number and shape of the tail feathers contributes to some of the differences in sound made during display flights. With big nod to Paul Leader, compare these Pintail and Swinhoe’s Snipe tails- from this former Birding Frontiers ‘Mystery Bird Quiz’:

Pintail Snipe tail,  Paul Leader. 8 ‘pins’ of similar length form outer tail feathers

Pintail Snipe tail, Paul Leader. 8 ‘pins’ of similar length form outer tail feathers

 

Adult Swinhoe’s Snipe tail,  Paul Leader. 6 ’pins’ form outer tail feathers, which broaden noticeably inward.

Adult Swinhoe’s Snipe tail, Paul Leader. 6 ’pins’ form outer tail feathers, which broaden noticeably inward.

 

 Magnus HellströmMagnus Hellström

“Glad to join the team! I’m a lifelong bird watcher born in 1974. I’m a biologist and agronomist and live in Kalmar, part of the huge Baltic flyway along the coast of SE Sweden. I’ve been involved in all kinds of different ringing projects and monitoring programs over the years, working with many small and large projects, both in Sweden and abroad. This has resulted in a deep interest in bird ID (including moult, ageing and sexing) as well as taxonomy. I am employed by the Swedish Ornithological Society as head of Ottenby Bird Observatory where the scientific work today focuses on bird migration, phenological analyses of long-term ringing series, providing zoonotic sampling for external institutions etc. Concerning bird ID, my primary interest lies within the Palearctic fauna and I enjoy traveling anywhere in the east. I was a member of the Swedish rarities committee 2002-2012 and since 2007 I also work as a tour leader for AviFauna.”