Snipe and the Moon

Snipe on the move

Striking to note the huge abundance of snipe on the hill over the past few days. Hauling home a load of split ash last night after dark, we flushed fourteen snipe from the muddy puddles in less than a mile.

Snipe and woodcock always congregate on the farm tracks immediately after sunset, and they tend to disperse into the fields to forage as the night progresses. This is particularly true when the ground is wet, and I wonder if the birds like to guddle and bathe in the puddles left by the tyre tracks after a day’s roosting. Like many small and vulnerable birds, perhaps they like the space and security of open ground to stretch their wings and prepare for the night.

There were a few woodcock in amongst these snipe, but the real Fall will come when the moon is full. I see that this month’s November moon is set to be one of the biggest in over sixty years, so it will be interesting to see what effect this might have on migrants coming over the North Sea. For now, the moon is as fresh and new as any I’ve ever seen, and on Tuesday night it was simply a pale silver eyelash in the twilight.

Walking the dogs on the darkening last week, I heard a dozen or more snipe passing overhead against the stars. Snipe move in mysterious ways – I have spent hours exploring  the precise mechanisms of their migration and dispersal – it is as profound and mysterious as the more celebrated woodcock Fall, but it takes a more careful eye to note down every shift and nuance. I’m afraid that level of attentiveness escapes me.

I would absolutely love to ring some chicks on the Chayne in the hope that their potential recovery might help to illuminate this shady world of migration and movement – it’s never hard to find the little ones, but bird ringing is a funny old business and it’s not easy to make contacts who could help when you’re not “in the loop”.


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