The nature of things
ANYONE lucky enough to see a foraging jack snipe—a much rarer bird than his resident cousin, the common snipe—will immediately be enchanted by his bouncing gait, as if he’s walking on soft springs instead of the long-toed, greeny-grey legs that carry him furtively through marsh and field. Cowpoached grazing land is a favourite haunt of these winter visitors from Scandinavia and Russia. Watch him bounce along, probing the earth, poking his long bill into the mud for worms and molluscs.
At this time of year, Jack is a lonesome thing, not given to travelling with Jill, being far less sociable than the common snipe. Migration flights are thought to be solo and occur chiefly at night. By day, the plumage is so stealthy in its symphony of browns and creams amid the bleached tussocks and fallen leaves and the fugitive nature of the bird so pronounced that both Jack and his Jill are virtually impossible to see. That is, until you have almost trodden on him or her; at such a moment, Lymnocryptes minimus shoots out from under your feet, to fly low for some yards before landing again.
As well as from details of plumage, jack snipe is identified by being about two-thirds the size of common snipe. His bill is correspondingly shorter and, as noted, he’s generally a silent loner while here. KBH
Illustration by Bill Donohoe