Posted by: atowhee | January 29, 2021

WATCHING OUT

And day can bring a surprise bird into our garden. Now the female Townsend’s Warbler has been here more than a week, so she’s still gorgeous, but getting kinda ho-hum. The male Varied Thrush shows up daily, too, getting worms and other comestibles under the leaves scattered among the rose bushes. When it gets a morsel I see it smack its beak open and shut briskly, then swallow.

But for only the second time, and as unexpected as the first sighting here–a Wilson’s Snipe exploded into the air when I took bird seed out into our back garden this morning Those sharp wings make a sound like two wooden shingles slapped together. I could find no recording of that sound on-line. The websites are all enamored of this more spectacular winnowing sound when the male is courting a female in spring. The snipe taker-off makes at least as much noise in volume as any of our much larger ducks or geese when they take-off. The snipe seems to go from zero to thirty in a couple seconds. Snipe have very strong chest muscles moving those wings, the muscles can be as much as 25% of the bird’s body weight! Total wingspan usually over sixteen inches.

I think the snipe must be feeding in this unlikely spot because many of their usual marshy fields are under too much water. Even with that long beak (Frank Chapman’s 120-year old handbook says 2.5 inches, none of my modern books, nor websites were any help) the snipe can’t keep its beak under water for long, needs to get its nostrils into the air so six inches of water would rule out feeding.


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