Describes it perfectly not that we have even seen a flock of snipes. We’ve rarely seen one in the Algarve, and when we do it is like they are a ‘whisper’. A trace of one catches the corner of your eye, or there is a hint of one in the undergrowth. No wonder I like their collective noun of ‘whisp’.

common-snipeUnsurprisingly I photographed this one from the hide at Quinta do Lago, it is where I seem to have most success with photographing birds that are shy or unusual. Not that these photographs are brilliant but at least you can see it! This is the Common Snipe which winters across Portugal. Described by the Portuguese bird website Aves de Portugal as commonplace in the north of the country and ‘can be seen’ in the Algarve, their preferred habitat is rice paddies. marshes and swamps. Their Portuguese name is Narceja, and its scientific name Gallinago gallinago.

narcejaAbout the size of a Blackbird they are mostly brown in colour. Something which causes me immense difficulties when out observing waders as so many are brown in winter! However when you see them close up you realise that their colours, shading and patterns are stunning, and as my photographs highlight their plumage is excellent camouflage in wetlands. There is another Snipe in Portugal as in England – Jack Snipe – but this species is even more furtive than the Common Snipe hence its name. The two birds seem similar at first glance, but as this excellent BTO video shows they are quite different once you know what you are looking for!