Sunday, October 14, 2007


Mid October is not the usual time to see shore birds in Alberta. I was at the pond to look for muskrats and to see how many ducks were still hanging around. The geese were abundant and there were Lessor Scaup, Common Goldeneye, and Mallards. No muskrat.

However as I picked my way through the thistle and willow beside the pond I spotted something move among the shore reeds along the shaded side of a tiny spit of land that jutted into the pond. I brought my binoculars up and saw the snipe. I was about 100 feet away and could only tell by the shape, size, and the straight long bill.

I set up the tripod, took some pictures and then moved 10 feet closer. I kept taking photos and moving closer until I was about 20 feet from the snipe with the sun behind me. The snipe prefered to feed in the shade and this was one of the few sun shots the bird allowed me. I continued to move up and got within about 15 feet but by then the bird was camoflauged in some red brown reeds that seemed to match his feathers pretty precisely and the few shots I took at this distance showed a two dimensional bird.

I've seen more snipes in Alberta sitting on fence and telephone posts than on the ground. I've never heard the winnowing sound the birds make in the spring. They fly to about 350 feet and dive fast enough (about 25 to 50 mph) to make their outer tail feathers vibrate with a sound that is apparently like that of a reed instrument.