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front view
Gallinago gallinago
on one leg
SW of Calgary
Anne Elliott
Wilson's Snipe
© All Rights Reserved
© Anne Elliott 2016
fence post
29 May 2016

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Balancing act

Balancing act
Today is going to be a very, very long, tiring day and I have such an early start. So, I am posting just the one image today.

Sometimes, when I see a Wilson's Snipe, the bird is standing on two legs, but more often than not, it is balanced carefully on just one leg. Also, sometimes, it is perched on the 'wrong' side of the road and I find myself looking into the sun. However it happens, I'm always happy to see one of these birds. When I've had no luck finding the birds that I set out to hopefully find, I know I can usually rely on Mr and/or Mrs. Snipe to be standing on a fence post. This one was seen on 29 May 2016, SW of the city.

"Though the long tradition of “snipe hunt” pranks at summer camp has convinced many people otherwise, Wilson’s Snipes aren’t made-up creatures. These plump, long-billed birds are among the most widespread shorebirds in North America. They can be tough to see thanks to their cryptic brown and buff coloration and secretive nature. But in summer they often stand on fence posts or take to the sky with a fast, zigzagging flight and an unusual “winnowing” sound made with the tail." From AllAboutBirds.


According to Fisher and Acorn's book, "Birds of Alberta", "the common Snipe is both secretive and well camouflaged, so few people notice it until it flushes suddenly from a nearby grassy tussock. As soon as the Snipe takes to the air, it performs a series of quick zigzags - an evasive maneuver designed to confuse predators. Because of this habit, Snipes were among the most difficult birds to shoot (in the days when shorebirds were hunted for sport), and skilled sportsmen were known as "snipers" - a term later adopted by the military."


A year ago, it was the annual May Species Count on 28 and 29 May 2016, so a very busy couple of days. On 29 May, our usual small group (six of us in two cars) covered an area SW of the city - which happens to be one of my favourite and most visited areas. We had a great day, stopping at a few wetlands and calling in at Barb Castell's acreage where she usually has amazing birds to show us. Several special species were missing, but we were delighted to watch a teeny Ruby-throated Hummingbird. We were also happy to see seven Rose-breasted Grosbeaks during the day, and a male American Kestrel that caught a frog for supper! No owls to be found anywhere, but I did go back the following evening and saw two separate Great Gray Owls in our Count area. I went back again on 1 June and found the first owl again. This time, it wasn't pouring with rain, but I was looking into the sun (so a lot of blown-out feathers) and it was very windy. It was nice to see the owl hunting, catch a small rodent and then fly to a fence post - wish the lighting had been so much better.

I also called in to see if a Wilson's Snipe was standing on a fence post, and I was in luck. These are one of my favourite birds to photograph and they have given me so many wonderful chances for photos.

Judith Jannetta has particularly liked this photo


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