Foam Lake Birding No. 148

No. 148
            The absentees of last week (the Harris Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Pine Siskins, Goldfinches, and Swainson's Thrush) are all here now in our yard.  Once the trees start leafing out in earnest the last of the summer arrivals like the Yellow Warbler, Baltimore Oriole and House Wren will be here.  Then it is nesting time. 
            With the warmer weather we are now sleeping with our window open to breathe the nice fresh air throughout the night.  A fringe benefit is that we also get to hear birdsong in the late evening and early morning.  Some people find this very annoying but my wife and I find it soothing. 
            One of the bird sounds that we find very relaxing is that of the Wilson's Snipe.  I used the word "sound" instead of "song' for a reason.  During the spring courting season the male flies up from his perch, and after gaining altitude, goes into a shallow dive.  After gaining speed the air passing through his tail feathers produces a hollow whistling sound best described as 'wu wu wu . . .".  He then pulls out of his dive and repeats the process.  Sometimes, instead of diving, he will fly in a straight line parallel to the ground and then suddenly turn into a flat curve with the same resulting sound.  The sound is often referred to as "winnowing".  Several males performing in the same area put on quite a performance - at least for birders.  In Eastern Canada the somewhat similar Woodcock does something much the same but less dramatic. 
            The Wilson's Snipe, a Robin sized wader, is a relatively nondescript brown and white bird with an extremely long bill.   Although it is a wader it is somewhat of an upland bird often seen sitting on fence posts, light standards and so on sometimes quite far from water. 
            In the late fall small family groups are found along edges of larger sloughs as long as the shore lines are not frozen over.  When flushed they fly away in zig zag fashion while uttering a loud and harsh "scape".  It is a game bird and for many years I tried to bag one to see how palatable it was but, no matter how hard I tried, the snipes always managed to surprise me and fly away before I could get my bearings. 
            I took this week's picture last July just south of Monmartre near the motel that we were staying at.  Judging by the amount of "white wash" on the rail it must have spent a lot of time perched on it .