Saturday 14 August 2021

Latham's Snipe

 It seems the sun is daring to put in an appearance this morning, after almost three days of more or less continuous and frequently torrential rain. In this shot of a migrant Latham's Snipe the upbound drops of water indicate how heavy the sudden onset was. 

Finding suitable fields migrant waders might stop off in is always the challenge, particularly this early during the southbound migration when everywhere seems a sea of full-grown rice. Compared to the Kyoto area, Matsusaka is slightly better off in somuch as the planting/harvest is, rather surprisingly. about three weeks ahead, hence there's more chance of there being attractive fields for the juvenile waders coming through later in the season.  

I was really pleased with this encounter because it resulted in two snipe firsts! The first of which involved a confrontation with a Pacific Golden Plover and this brief selection of images outlines how things went.

The Goldie had been gradually making its way in the direction of the field's edge and the Latham's stretched itself up as it approached. The Goldie did too, momentarily, but soon drew back its neck and walked around the situation, under the glare of the Latham's eye.

This was my first first. The tail flick is very frequent in response to any potential threat in the vicinity but this was the first time I've noticed the tail being twisted round; it's the underside we can see on this view. There must be a reason for this I imagine. The tail looks as though it's directed towards the Goldie but might the upperside be signaling to unseen snipe in the opposite direction?  

Having seen off the interloper, I was surprised the Latham's immediately flew 10m further into the open field, rather than enjoy the patch of mud it had seemingly defended. None of my flight shots came to anything due to the poor light, cranking the ISO had little effect as, though the bird came ever closer, the light steadily dimmed and the sky tap turned to near full.

As for that second first I mentioned earlier, this is it, or this is when it occurred to be more precise. As It stood on this low mound it repeatedly called, I've never seen a migrant snipe calling on the ground. The call was a repeated kech kech kech the 'ch' as in the German 'Ich' or 'Heinrich'. It wasn't very loud, though loud enough to hear over the drumming rain, and similar to the distinctive kek kek kek flight call Latham's sometimes gives when flushed. Any flushed snipe giving that call will be a Latham's.

After three hours of relentless rain I decided to head back to Kyoto, thinking the traffic would be a nightmare in these conditions. As it turned out, the rain, at this stage, was restricted to the east side of the Kii Peninsula mountains so the drive wasn't nearly as slow as I'd expected.

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