The Snipe Season


During mid to late September, we normally see an influx of Swintail Snipes passing through northern Thailand. This year, there’s a particular area in my local patch where these birds seemed to favour. I went out almost every morning to check these birds before the farmers arrived and flushed the birds away.

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The area where they favoured was a ca. 25 x 100m open plot of land with small ditches in between. The birds were normally found feeding along the ditches but sometimes also standing on the open ground, particularly while resting.

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The reason why they favoured this area was obvious. There seemed to be quite a lot of food here, especially along the ditches. Even though the area looked dry from the outside, the soil underneath was actually soft and humid, thus full of earthworms. Not only the snipes that were attracted to this particular area, other birds like mynas, starlings and doves also came to forage on other kinds of food here as well.



Note the pin-like outer tail feathers confirming that this one is a Pin-tailed Snipe


The best time to see the snipes was right after sunrise until around 8:15 AM when farmers started to arrive. It was particularly good when there’s some rainfall during the night because in the morning, the earthworms would be very active and abundant attracting many snipes into the area.


The same individual as the photo above, also showing the pin-like outer tail feathers if you look closely


When snipes are disturbed, they’d sometimes do this act before jumping/flying off quickly like there’s a spring under their feet. We might get to see the outer tail feathers during this split seconds too, if we’re lucky.


But mostly, the pins are hardly revealed

There were normally at least 3 birds in the area but some mornings, especially when there was no rain during the night before, there would be only 1 bird or none. After scrutinising every single bird possible, I still haven’t found any Swinhoe’s Snipe. Only Pin-tailed Snipes were confirmed.

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But among these Pin-tailed Snipes, there was quite a range of variation on the plumage. Some birds seemed to be more buffish, some had darker crown stripes, some had more pale brownish speckles on the crown stripes and such. You can visit this post for more variations of the Pin-tailed Snipes.

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This particularly pale and greyish juvenile seemed to be disturbed easily by anything that passed by, so I was able to get quite many shots of it while doing the disturbed pose before taking a flight. It was interesting to see how different individuals had different personalities.

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The pins can be seen while preening as well. This one can be confirmed as another Pin-tailed Snipe.

There was one individual which I saw and photographed regularly for several days in a row. It had a very worn plumage particularly the wing coverts which made it look quite pale overall. There were some new feathers on the mantle and upper scapulars. The moulting suggests that it was an adult getting rid of its breeding plumage. The broad buffish edges to the new feathers on mantle and upper scapulars also suggest adult bird.


Pin-tailed Snipe enjoying its breakfast!

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The best way to distinguish Swintail from Common Snipe is by the heavily barred underwing coverts as shown here.



Again, showing the super narrow pin-like outer tail feathers while preening


Laying low when feeling unsecured

I observed and photographed these birds from a car, so I could get pretty close to them. Without being in a car, they tend to fly off as soon as they notice a human being even from the distance.


This juvenile was more buffish than the others with more striking darkish crown stripes.

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Outer tail feathers shown while preening confirmed the identity as yet another Pin-tailed Snipe

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Normally, they’d actively feed during early morning and as the sun gets stronger, they’d slow down their activities. Sometimes they’d also bathe and preen. They’d rest for about 10-20 minutes then continued to forage and the cycle went on until the farmers came and flushed them away.


Sometimes they also stayed in the nearby area with thick vegetation. Here’s another relatively dark crowned individual.


And a camouflaging individual to end this post!


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