A Snipe’s Tale 2: The Return of Jack

There have been two tales of snipe for Wild Barley. The first the story of a Common Snipe ringed at our site in Cranwich and recovered in northern Spain and the second the story of both Common and Jack Snipe caught and ringed in North Wiltshire. They may also may a cameo appearance in the stories from The Gambia, but as you can tell we do not usually catch Snipe in Norfolk. And we are not alone. In 2014 only one Snipe was ringed in the whole of Norfolk, and no Jack Snipe! You have to go right back to 2009 to find the last Jack Snipe ringed in Norfolk. So when scouting out a new site at a local farm and the distinct call of not only Snipe but Jack Snipe comes from tufts of grass and reed surrounding pools it immediately piques the interest of whether we could catch them. The experience of ringing with others know becomes invaluable. Those opportunities to learn and watch from other ringers to have caught Snipe before, both in The Gambia and North Wiltshire, provide invaluable knowledge and ideas.

Just before dusk, with the sun heading for the horizon following a cool, very early spring day, nets were set around one of the farms pools. The idea was to catch any birds coming into the edges of the pools to roost. Dusk meant the nets would not be so visible to birds that have such good eyesight.

Sunset over the site

There was no guarantee it would work. There never is. But luck, or knowledge, was on our side and the return to the nets revealed not one, but three Jack Snipe!

These three, along with the rest of the wintering Jack Snipe population in the UK will soon be hearing off to Scandinavia and Russia to breed. But at least now a very small (OK a teeny tiny) proportion of the Norfolk wintering population have rings on and so there is always a chance they will be recovered and that might reveal where exactly there are going to breed. Just to have them in the hand provides a unique opportunity to study aspects of their moult and biology and ultimately to contribute to the knowledge of this species.

It is a privilege to hold any bird in the hand, but to hold those that are rarely caught is extra special. So it is a huge congratulations to Lee for catching three of these wonderful birds.

The beautiful Jack Snipe

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