Wednesday 11 March 2015

Upping the bill

Leaving for work one morning last week, I startled a Song Thrush that had been rummaging about in the garden below the house. At least, I think that's what it was. The size, shape, colour and flight were about right, though we don't see them often. But that's not what intrigued me. As it went to land in the paddock, between Tense Towers and the neighbouring farm, it spooked a Snipe, which stood up and gave the thrush the wadery equivalent of a hard stare for having the temerity to disturb it.

For the next few days, Life generally pushed this bit of info to the back of my mind, but yesterday morning I remembered. As it happens, this was just before Our Lass was due to leave for work, so she didn't greet my telling of the tale with too much excitement, what with the whole 'have-I-got-everything-I-need-for-the-day' mojo going on.

That is until I happened to scan the paddock with my bins, more in hope than expectation, and discovered four Snipe still in residence, hunkered down out of the wind and occasionally scurrying through the sward to search for tasty morsels.

As the sun was a. out, and b. still low in the sky, the lighting wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, if I opened the front door, I couldn't hold the camera still in the gusty conditions and trying to take photographs through the salt-lashed windows wasn't likely to win any prizes.

Undeterred, I rattled off some images when any of the birds deigned to poke their heads above the tussocks of grass or creep through the vegetation.

Reviewing these photos later, I was bemused to find one that showed a sitting Snipe with its bill open, and the top mandible curved upwards. Unsure of what this meant, I posted the images to the Orkney birding group page on Facebook and hoped for enlightenment. Sure enough, more knowledgeable minds than mine recognised the behaviour and introduced me to the concept of rhynchokinesis. See here for Wiki's take on the subject.

It's not something to turn your nose up at.

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