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Snipe and Jack Snipe

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Uplifting to find a great quantity of snipe on the heather hill this evening as I walked the dogs in a low smirr. They rose up one by one from deep beds of crowberry and lichen which was duck-egg blue in the last glow of daylight. Amongst them were several jack snipe, which flittered weakly up and away for a few yards before flopping wearily back into the moss again. It’s hard to mistake jack snipe for common snipe once you’ve got your eye in, and it was striking this evening to note the difference in scale – the jacks really are tiny when flushed – like a fat and rather apologetic skylark.

Colin McKelvie’s book on snipe informs me of the old Irish wisdom that snipe will head to the “red” (or heathery) moors when the moon is full. McKelvie’s explanation for why this should be is pretty shaky, but the gist is invariably accurate. You would hardly be able to tell much of the lunar cycle this evening as the clouds descend and the leaves reek with mould, but it was interesting to read recently that curlews forage further afield by night when the moon is full, irrespective of whether or not it is visible or the conditions are much brighter. With snipe as with so much else, the moon exercises an influence which goes far beyond the mere distribution of light.

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