Thursday, May 8, 2014


Thursday's Guardian Country Diary is about an encounter with snipe on Chapel Fell in Weardale.

Usually the first hint that there are snipe around comes from the sound of males during their territorial 'drumming' flights, when they fly a switchback course around their territory. During their dives single feathers on either side of the tail stick out (see photo above) and produce a strange reverbatory bleating sound.  As soon as the sound reaches the ground the snipe has already begun to climb again, so it's not easy to find the high-flying fast-moving bird against a clear blue sky from the drumming sound alone.

When this one had finished its display flight it landed on a fence post close to where I was standing and began its mating call - a weird metranomic tick-a, tick-a call that rises in volume then suddenly stops, restarting after a brief interval. The bird soon flew off, but .....

.... not very far, landing on this tall pipe and calling all over again. It seemed reluctant to leave and I discovered why ...

.... when the female casually walked out of a muddy patch of rushes just a few feet away from the wall that I was leaning on. The camouflage from her mottled plumage was exquisite and when she stood still it was easy to lose sight of her. I had time for just one quick picture before she sprang and zig-zagged away across the fell, towards her consort.

A memorable encounter.


  1. We have Snipe near us, and managed to see one last year, they must like standing on fence posts, that's how I got my photo.

    1. Hi Amanda, I often see then perched on fence posts at this time of year - often at the roadside in places where I can't stop the car to take a photo!

  2. Didn't know about those side feathers, Phil. Fascinating! Thank you for the info in this super post.

    1. I once found a snipe that had been shot and when I blew across one of those feathers it 'drummed' - all the best, Phil