It was a pleasant surprise to find a couple of snipe chicks on the hill this afternoon while trudging around my larsens. They can’t have been bigger than champagne corks, huddled together in a nook in the rushes, and I could have walked past them a thousand times without seeing them if the hen hadn’t got up in a flutter at my feet.
Assuming that they are three days old and the incubation period for snipe is less than three weeks, this clutch was probably laid at the start of April. I’ve only ever found snipe chicks in mid to late May, and it seemed very early to make such an exciting discovery – but then again, the past few weeks have been warm and mild and there is no reason why breeding could not have been taking place. After all, the drumming and territorial displays have been underway since the end of February. It was interesting that she should only have had a brood of two, and I wondered if the snow maybe played a part in whittling down a larger brood over the last forty eight hours.
I took this picture (above) of a snipe chick on the Chayne in May last year – today’s chicks were considerably smaller and lacked the emerging wing feathers down their backs. They were little balls of fluff with broad, white speckled bands running parallel from their shoulders to their bums. The camouflage was amazing, and they never moved in all the time I peered at them. The sleet came back on a few minutes later, and I hoped that the hen would cover them over and warm them up as the darkness fell.