Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snipe(r)

November is a funny month for the bird world. Migration is mostly over, but stray birds still move around, and others start to appear with such subtlety, with such little fanfare and announcing, that one wonders if they ever left at all. One such bird is the Wilson's Snipe (yes, a Snipe is a real bird). These sneaky shorebirds turn up in Arizona and the southern half of the U.S. throughout the winter. They're secretive by nature, but towards the end of November they start appearing out of the foggy, misty mud in the Phoenix marshes. I enjoy when their pictures then start turning up over the blogosphere, and try my hand at Snipe sniping as well.


Wilson's Snipes have excellent camouflage and are generally silent. Sometimes they feed out in the open, but more often than not these birds are seen after they've flushed. The Gilbert Water Ranch is one of the best places around Phoenix to see these birds and maybe snap a few photos, as the shallow mudflats they favor are mercifully close to pedestrian paths.


They feed the most openly in the mornings and evenings, like many birds, but in my personal experiences I've found them to be more crepuscular, and see them the most often at dusk. Naturally, this makes photographing them tricky.
At least there'll be Dowitchers nearby no matter what when where how or why.

14 comments:

  1. Gotta love some sniping! Nice shots.

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    1. Thanks Scott. It's just like being in Nam' again :)

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    1. I know what you mean. I've tried hugging them though and, well...long story short it just never works out.

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  3. ...love the head-on snipe photo. They are hard to photograph!

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    1. Thank you Kelly.
      A head shot is always the Snipe(r)'s goal! :)

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  4. Awesome shots! I was reading your post during a staff meeting. It made the hour go by quicker:) The Wilson Snipe is a real treat and you got the money shot on that second photo. Nice work! That's what I loved about Gilbert....we were able to get up so close to the smaller birds. Hope you had a great day.

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    1. Thank Chris,

      The GWR's greatest virtue is the close proximity it provides to so many different species. It pulls in its share of rarities too though I don't have so much luck there with rare birds myself, but it's got to be one of the best photographic spots in Phoenix, even if the environment itself isn't overly beautiful or photogenic (remember, it is in Phoenix after all).

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  5. Ive had very little luck with snipe photography...I have decent photos of two (2) individuals, and who knows how many Ive seen...its not a good ratio. Saw close to 20 today, photographed 0. They are great looking birds though, no doubt.

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    1. Oh you're not a good Snipe(r) Seagull (Yes, it will be several years before I get tired of that joke, and no, it doesn't matter that every birder who has gone before me has made it)?

      Hey, when you saw these 20 Snipe, were they all together?
      I ask because once, and only once, I swear I saw like 15ish Snipe all feeding together like Dowitchers, though in muddy/grassy stuff instead of water. I haven't seen anything like it since. I guess it's very possible it was a mis-ID way back when, but there's not a lot else to mistake that head for.

      Anyway yes, they're handsome devils.
      Thanks for stopping by

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    2. The snipes were loosely together...they can concentrate into really big groups sometimes, but they dont typically feed side-by-side like dowitchers.

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    3. Weird birds. Everyone indulges in a little Dowitcher style though now and again.

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  6. I enjoyed your post, Laurence. I had fun showing my older brother from Kentucky this spring that snipes are real and I didn't ask him to stand in a field with a bag to try to catch them. We got some great looks and photos in a small wetland in Utah. We have several locations in Utah and Salt Lake Counties that draw a decent number of snipes during the spring. We can find them hunkered down in the grass just feet away from one another.

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    1. Right on Jeff. I enjoyed your post with the Snipes too. I love how they start popping up both in the wild and in the blogosphere this time every year. They're such fun birds but then I totally forget they exist during spring and summer.

      Come winter time and then it's a surprise all over again.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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