Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wilson's Snipe at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge

I've actually seen or identified several birds this week for the first time. One or two of them resulted from a first time trip over the Diablo Range on the "short cut" that leads from San Jose to Patterson in the Central Valley (note: it is, and never was, a short cut). The other was my quick trip out to the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge on Beckwith Road. There was little going on at the parking lot (they were plowing the fields, so no birds were hanging around). But there is a pond along Beckwith Road a half east of the viewing platform, and there were some unfamiliar birds hanging about.

I may have a picture or two in the archives of a Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata), but I haven't gotten as far as identifying one yet, so this is a first. The Snipes are a mythical legend from my Boy Scout days of long ago. Our hazings were far less violent than any fraternities, and mostly consisted of "snipe hunts", going out in the darkness with a paper sack trying to convince the Tenderfoots that they could catch a snipe in their bags. I never suspected that the bird actually existed!

The Snipes are not uncommon, but they are shy and well-camouflaged, so are not seen all that often. With their incredibly long bill, they are obviously well-adapted for searching for tidbits in deep mud pools. Their eyes are set farther back in their heads, so they can in effect see threats coming from behind. Like your third-grade teachers, they have eyes on the back of their heads!

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