I recently photographed a group of Wilson’s Snipe at St-Lazare sand pitd and posted them on the blog. Two birds facing each other were included and it would be fair to say that they looked pretty different. After the post a reader reasonably suggested that one might be a Common Snipe and, to be fair, you could see where he was coming from. I pointed out that Common Snipe is a very rare species in North America and that I considered both birds to be Wilson’s. I then did my research, referencing a series of useful articles in Birding World (the UK one) on the occurrence of Wilson’s Snipe in the UK and a well-documented Newfoundland record, a link to that is here: http://birdingnewfoundland.blogspot.ca/2011/02/common-snipe.html
I had wanted to illustrate the differences between the two species, or sub-species depending on which ‘wet-finger-in-the-wind’ taxonomy you follow, but I didn’t have any images of Common Snipe, well now I do. Whilst at Leighton Moss in Lancashire, UK, a trio of Common Snipe came darning past the hide using their knitting needles bills to ruin the day of many a worm. Of the three, two were very similar and, it has to be said, a little Wilson’s like. The third, which steadfastly refused to be photographed in the open, was much paler, warmer and buffier, almost a ‘classic’. I’ve been looking at the shots for while now and I’ve been looking at my stock shots from various spots in Québec and Ontario of Wilson’s obviously!) and decided that these are a pair of devils to sort out.
Here’s what I thought I would do, post a load of photos and not tell you which is which plus, post three photos with one Common and one Wilson’s side by side by way of a clue. This topic won’t interest everyone, in fact I’d be fairly confident in saying that most readers won’t give a Beaver’s nostril for the topic but – those of you who struggle to sleep when the weather promises migrants (like me) will like the challenge. Later, if the autumn migration falls on its bottom, I might just do some ID pages using the images – then you can see how right you were, for now enjoy!