Friday, December 10, 2010

Snipe Hunt

Okay, so the title is a misnomer - I wasn't actually looking for a snipe when I was birding this past weekend, but the Wilson's snipe near the Provo River trailhead was an astonishing surprise. I was watching a few chilly mallards and a pair of winter-plumaged pied-billed grebes when I saw a bit of movement on a sandbar island in the river. A quick check through the binoculars was all that was necessary to confirm the Wilson's snipe with its long, probing bill and distinctive striped upperparts.

This wasn't a new bird for my life list, but I haven't seen one in nearly two years. That first view was a close but quick encounter at the St. George Winter Bird Festival in January 2009, but because this bird is so beautifully marked, it was easy to identify even then. This past weekend, I was able to watch it for several minutes as it probed along the edges of the sandbar. I had very satisfying, close-range views, as the bird was only about 35 feet away. Given that an arm of the very frigid river separated us, the snipe was utterly unconcerned with my presence, and only flew off down the waterway after it had probed all areas of the sandbar that looked promising.

I'd initially gone birding hoping for a lifer, and while I didn't see anything new, who can be disappointed with such an unexpected surprise?

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