One of my local birding friends has a thermal imager that is extremely helpful when he’s trying to locate birds that are very good at hiding in plain sight – as long as they’re not obscured by too much vegetation, the heat generated by the birds shows up as a bright patch when looking through the imager. And that is how I got to see not one but two Jack snipe this week. Here’s a photo to illustrate how well hidden they are …
The first bird Graham found was the most difficult to see. The image on the left below was almost all we could see of it – these birds have two parallel pale yellow stripes running along the sides of their heads and down their backs. Can you spot the head stripes? Luckily for us, this bird stayed a couple of days – it would’ve been out feeding in the night, then returned to huddle down in its roosting spot in the daytime. The following day we could make out less of its body but, as you can see below right, we could see its eye quite clearly.
The second bird was discovered on the second day. I just happened to be there when Graham arrived and he immediately picked up a second heat source very close to the first bird. This second bird was much more visible, though its cryptic plumage still made it difficult. These photos were taken with a zoom lens – the first photo at the start of this post is what you could see with the naked eye. If you look carefully at the image below, you may be able to make out the other Jack snipe in the top left – you can see one horizontal yellow body stripe and one head stripe.
I’d only ever seen Jack snipe once before this week, as a fleeting flying blur. I was hoping our birds might come out and do their characteristic bouncing dance but no such luck. Still, I’m certainly not complaining. Our views of these elusive birds were superb!