Of the three snipe species in the title, Latham's and Swinhoe's are clearly the commoner migrants passing through the Kansai region. However, much further south, on a recent trip to Ishigaki, six of the seven identified snipe were Pintail, suggesting they're mainly entering (and exiting) Japan to the south of Honshu. I feel fortunate to have had so many good views of all three species within a short period of time, it's been an important refresher on migrant snipe identification; there can never be too much time spent watching snipe.
I already posted shots of a Latham's seen well a couple of weeks ago, the only one of the trio passing through the region that breeds in Japan. A couple of weeks later I managed some great shots of a Swinhoe's, also in Mie Prefecture, in another of the few fields that offer both good habitat for snipe and viewing conditions.
The Swinhoe's scurried away along a muddy furrow, below the grassy bund, before I'd even pulled up to scan the field, but after 40 metres it crouched, mostly hidden, under the overhanging grass. From the views I'd had of it disappearing along the field edge it was clearly a swintail, and it had a distinct Swinhoe's feel. Knowing it was bound to re-emerge to feed before too long, I settled down to wait. Not only did it soon re-emerge but, to my surprise, made a beline back towards its original position, right where I was waiting. Ultimately it disappeared beneath the grassy field edge three metres to my right. I walked over the spot, I'd have been less than a metre from the bird, along the entire edge of the field and back, but it didn't show itself again.
|After coming out hiding, it made straight towards me, I couldn't believe my luck. But views became much, much better.|
|It never ceases to amaze me how much the head shape can change from one second to the next.|
Next, a couple of juvenile Pintail (pins seen) on Ishigaki.
|This bird spent a lot of time sunbathing, in fact I never saw it feed all afternoon, the upshot being the pins were frequently on view.|
|It's another classically short-billed bird, and note how the adult also shows extensive and obvious rusty flecks in the lateral crown stripes. I've yet to see a Swinhoe's that can match this appearance.|
|Compared to the first Swinhoe's, this is a more faded bird, the flanks through coverts to scapular fringes are equally lacking in contrast, just paler overall.|
|Thick, yellow legs are another point in favour of Swinhoe's.|
|The aggregation of singly inconclusive features in favour of a Swinhoe's identification is making a strong case when, by way of contrast nothing is leaning towards Pintail.|