26 February, 2011

Jack Snipe is a tough guy

This Jack Snipe was photographed during winter 2006.
Photo copyright Pekka Sarvela, thanks to him for allowing me to use it.

The Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minumus)  is a small stocky wader. It is the smallest snipe, and the only member of the genus Lymnocryptes. Their breeding habitat is marshes, bogs, tundra and wet meadows with short vegetation in northern Europe and northern Russia. Jack Snipes are migratory, spending the non-breeding period in Great Britain, Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal Europe, Africa, and India.
But... did you know that part of the Jack Snipe population spend winters up here in the north, up to 62nd latitude. They are able survive in very small ditches and brooks, open drains and industrial areas where warm condensation water is let out to nature. Naturally, the weather in the end of autumn affects directly to the number of overwintering snipes. During winter 2000/2001, after warm autumn, 116 Jack Snipes were found from southern Finland. The real number must be much bigger, because this bird is really difficult to find. Their survival strategy is interesting; they don't move at all during day time! When the sun sets down and the dusk arrives, Jack Snipes activate. They may even fly long times over the open water, land every now and then and continue flying. Probably they also move between open ditches and brooks. Often the only sign that birders see, are the small foot steps of Jack Snipe somewhere along the ditch.

Surprisingly big number of overwintering snipes also survive to the spring. Of course it depends on the winter; for example this winter has been very cold and fatal to snipes, because most of the ditches and brooks are now covered with ice. But probably some of the luckiest ones will survive to spring - Jack Snipe is a tough guy!

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