Snipe Song

Singing from the stob tops
Singing from the stob tops – this bird was on Tiree a few years ago

Without having meant to litter the place with short little articles, it is worth mentioning the snipe’s seasonally courageous habit of standing up on the stob tops during May. It is so rare to see a snipe before it sees you at any other time of the year, but they seem to throw caution to the wind in Spring when their eggs are set or the chicks are very young. When pressed, they finally drop off and glide away with their wings set up like paper aeroplanes, usually chacking or calling noisily before landing with a flutter in the deep undergrowth. Like redshank, they seem to like getting up high (but not too high), and they often sing from a good vantage point. There have not been many days since the end of April that I haven’t seen snipe on the stop tops or along the dyke’s coping stones, and it’s always a pleasure to spot them calling, preening or simply lounging around in the sunshine.

I heard the first grasshopper warblers at the end of last month, and these little beauties have now been joined by a spitting, frenzied host of whitethroats which lurk in the flowering myrtle and rush out their short, scatty little tunes. With white beards cocked and jagged like the teeth of a saw, they hold forth amidst the diving swallows and the watchful, beady-eyed stonechats. The willow warblers have fallen quiet and no longer sing at all hours, and the hills belong to the cuckoos, which boo and chant throughout the day, spooning their tails in the breeze and fronting off the bickering pipits with an aura of majestic foolishness.

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