A VISIT TO A GREAT SNIPE LEK IS ANOTHER OF THOSE 100 THINGS FOR A BIRDER TO DO... We were very fortunate to be able to have a number of photo hide sessions overlooking one of the Great Snipe leks by the Pripyat River near Turov. I have visited the Narew Valley lek in Poland several times and have always been a bit disappointed by poor views of the birds in long grass so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to watch the snipes here in much shorter grass and at very close range. After last autumn's individual at Spurn one could be excused for thinking that such an encounter could not be bettered but that is until you see them lekking! Their display starts with a clicking of the bill and then the birds eventually fluff up their plumage and throw back their heads, while make peculiar popping sounds, ending with a flash of their striking wing markings and their bright white outer tail feathers. Birds were on the lek by around 1630 but activity did not really get going until later when the females visit and there is more fighting between the males. Great Snipe is listed as near threatened by BirdLife International owing to a decreasing population and the main problem it now faces in Belarus is scrubbing over of untended meadows by willow trees. Most of the males were ringed and the folks from the ringing station in Turov told us they also carry geolocators that have tracked them to their wintering grounds in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).
Viewing entries tagged
THE 2013 KILNSEA GREAT SNIPE WILL LONG BE REMEMBERED alongside the likes of other ultra tame stars of the past like the Cuckmere Haven Little Crake, Westleton Nutcracker, Sunderland Baillon’s Crake and the Grainthorpe Steppe Grey Shrike, as one of the most confiding British rarities. Pete and I eventually decided to desert the Birdquest office for the rest of the day and dashed east to Spurn, where the snipe was in view immediately on arrival in Beacon Lane. Roosting in the open on the edge of a field, next to a small pile of hay it was quite unsteady trying to balance on one leg in the gusting wind. We followed it around for nearly five hours, watching it feed very actively in the damp turf of the caravan site, resting from time to time. Most likely it was a tired migrant trying to put on fat reserves for the next leg of its journey south. It was a beautifully marked bright juvenile, covered in intricate barring and at times it positively shone in the late afternoon sun. Incredibly unconcerned, it would also walk right up to people, including me, to around only 10cm away. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us and it is so sad that I am now writing in the knowledge that it was found dead the following morning, with its tail missing and chest ripped open, suspected to have been the work of a predator... maybe a cat? This was such a tragic end for a truly wonderful bird. I saw another interesting statistic that Great Snipe is also now the current British Birds rarity species with the most previous records, however, many of these are historic, owing to their continued decline in Europe as well as the happy demise of snipe shooting in the UK.