Winnowing Snipes

Franklin Lake Trail 

Sunday morning found me hiking at the Franklin Lake portage. This trail is about ½ mile long and takes you into a remote lake called Franklin Lake. I was out early at about 6am. The previous evening there had been rain and thunder so the woods were very wet.

At the beginning of the trail there is a recent logged area across the road. It must be kind of a wet area as I could hear Alder Flycatchers calling.

There was also a WILSON’S SNIPE overhead winnowing. The Wilson’s Snipe is a shorebird that nests in the swampy woodlands. Some bird guides will call the Snipe a Common Snipe, but recently the Snipe species in the western hemisphere was split from the Common Snipe of Eurasia and now is referred to as the Wilson’s Snipe. There are subtle differences between the two species that are separated geographically by the Atlantic Ocean.

The Wilson’s Snipe when it winnows is actually using air going over it’s feathers to make the sound. The male bird will fly up to about 200 feet and when he dips down he uses his tail to make the noise. It is a display flight and is used to attract females.

There were two Snipes displaying in the early morning light. The winnowing is kind of a spooky sound and it’s hard to pick out the rather small bird with the naked eye up at 200 feet. I’ve been able to watch the bird in its display flight, but you really need a pair of binoculars to see it. One Snipe flew over at a lower height and was making another chirping sound. This is one weird looking bird with its extremely long beak and short tail.

Their nests are built at the edge of the swamp and are very well concealed. After the pair is bonded, the male is monogamous and helps care for the young. The female is a “close sitter” and will not flush easily from the nest.

While hiking on the trail I could hear the sounds of the Snipes winnowing and making the other weird noises they make.

It was a pretty quiet morning in the woods, but on the way out I heard a really strange kind of noise. To me it sounded like partial honking of a Canada Goose. I hadn’t heard any Geese prior to that so I was wondering what it was. Suddenly a couple guys appeared on the trail startling me. I jumped in surprise and felt embarrassed immediately. We exchanged pleasantries as these guys were hiking to the lake to go fishing. I asked them if they heard the weird noise and they said it was wolves. The woods are full of wolves they said. As I finished the walk I continued to hear the short little moans the wolf was making. Then I heard another wolf answer with a short howl. Yes, there are wolves here and they sounded close. Hopefully the Snipes have their nests well hidden and the wolves weren’t having eggs for breakfast. 


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