When you were a kid, did you ever have someone send you on a snipe hunt? Perhaps parents who wanted some peace and quiet for a while? Perhaps an older sibling with a devilish side? Perhaps a jerk of a classmate who just liked to pick on people? In the United States, a “Snipe Hunt” is a practical joke, usually done after the sun has gone down, sending some gullible child (or an extremely gullible adult) off in search of the mystical, mysterious, and completely non-existent Snipe.
But of course in the birding world a “Snipe Hunt” could be the pursuit of an actual bird! In the United States we have the Wilson’s Snipe, a fairly common species that is often seen in and around wetlands and marshes. While most often seen on the ground or wading in shallow water, during the breeding season they sometimes can be seen on very prominent perches. I’ve heard their display flights, seen them perched in shrub early in the spring, and even saw one swaying in the wind while somehow clinging to a telephone line with feet that are NOT made for such a task! But I’ve never captured a photo of one that wasn’t on the ground or in the water.
This morning I was driving in western Minnehaha County, a part of the “prairie potholes” that has many shallow wetlands and lakes. While approaching a wet, grassy field on a quiet gravel road, I saw a chunky bird perched on top of a fence post. Western Meadowlark? But as I got closer, it was obviously a Wilson’s Snipe, standing on the fence post and occasionally vocalizing. Love makes a guy do all kinds of crazy things, and this little guy was doing his best to attract attention. While watching him, he took flight and did a short display flight, calling all the while, and then circling back and landing on the same exact fence post! I watched him for a minute or two before he fluttered back down into the vegetation, but not before I was able to capture some photos of the behavior.
A successful Snipe hunt! TAKE THAT, practical jokesters!