a new visitor in my backyard


The Wilson’s Snipe photographed by my husband

My currently dormant garden provides good foraging for any bird interested in invertebrates as the soil teems with worms, millipedes and unwanted slugs. A regular crew of robins hunt across my raised beds for wormy snacks.

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a brown bird bigger than a robin. Initially, I thought it was a flicker as they are common in the area. But a flicker on the ground would be odd as they usually drill into trees to find their food (or stop by bird feeders). On closer inspection, the visitor was a bird I’d never seen before. Almost the size and shape as a quail with a brown camouflaged feather pattern. The bird had a ridiculously long beak – great for hunting through soil.

It was a Wilson’s Snipe, normally a shore bird that had somehow found its way to my backyard. It was intent on using it’s beak to find worms. As the snipe foraged, its entire body bobbed up and down almost like a dance. Watching the newcomer was quite entertaining. The bird stayed until dusk, when it shot off into the sky.

As a tangent – hunting snipe is notoriously difficult because they fly erratically and fast. To hit one you must be a good shot, which is the origins of the term ‘sniper’ for a military sharpshooter.