Winter Months at Williamthorpe|
This was written by: Geoff Mawson
Winter Months at Williamthorpe Ringing Jack Snipe and Common Snipe.
The winter months of 2004/2005 taught me much about the routines of the two species. First of all there was the surprise itself of ringing 11 Jack Snipe and 48 Common Snipe in the same small area of Williamthorpe Ponds. The ‘Ponds’ are fed continuously from pump water extracted from mine workings, a along term necessity. The relatively ‘warmer’ water helps keep a broad section of the marsh near to the source of this flow ice free providing an important feeding and resting area for the two species.
During the Autumn of 2004 it became obvious that our early morning activities erecting mist nets across a section of the phragmites marsh into adjacent scrub disturbed numerous Snipe. In fact finding that one had flown into the net whilst it was being erected was a surprise. It encouraged us to lengthen the net across the marsh, some sixty metres. A task not without its difficulties, because of the uncertain depth of the mud. As our visits progressed through November 2004 to March 2005 we became in tune with the early morning behaviour of these crepuscular feeders.
The two species behave in quite different ways when disturbed during the daytime. The Common Snipe calls as it climbs steeply in its zig-zag escape. By contrast the Jack Snipe takes flight at the last moment and flies low to another nesting place. It is not always possible to relocate the bird you have just seen land, which raises the question as to how many do go unnoticed. Before dawn, just as the light is changing, their behaviour can be quite different
. Common Snipe give off their rasping call as they take flight, but in poor light the two species fly across the marsh at low levels looking for a new place to land. Their low flight paths involving ‘tens’ of birds criss-crossing the marsh. Counts during the daytime, by Steve Mann of over a hundred Common Snipe are made at the site, with Jack Snipe more difficult to estimate. The first Jack Snipe seen early morning on the 7th November 2004 was a surprise and catching three a greater one.
Table 1 shows catching dates and successes at Williamthorpe produced by erecting nets in the marsh prior to our ‘normal’ ringing session in the adjacent shrub.
Evidence of an extended stay is supported by the retrapping of two Common Snipe retrapped again during the same winter with gaps of 13 days and 75 days.
Common Snipe CE40422 was ringed on 28/12/04 and retrapped on 13/03.05
XS49676 was ringed on 18/12/04 and retrapped on 31/12/05
With the experiences of the previous 2004/2005 winter to build upon, the first attempt to ring the two species the following winter began a week earlier in 2005/2006 on the 22nd October 2005. On this occasion one Jack Snipe and two Common Snipe were caught. The Jack Snipe BV99417 first ringed on 23rd January 2005. The Common Snipe, XS49676 was a retrap, ringed on 18th December 2004 and caught again on 31st December 2004. Examples of birds returning the following winter provided encouraging evidence of Williamthorpe being used as a ‘regular’ winter location for both species. The intriguing question being where did they both spend their summer?