Common Snipe – 1894

Gallinago calestis

Resident; numerous arrivals from the north in the autumn and winter.

The Common Snipe, like the Woodcock, is far less plentiful in the county than it used to be. We have heard old sportsmen speak of the great bags it was possible to make fifty or sixty years ago, not to be accomplished anywhere now. Our old friend, the late Mr. John Stokes, of Cuffern, once got between sixty and seventy couple in a day and a half on the moors in the neighbourhood of the Tufton Arms belonging to the Trecwn estate, besides Woodcocks and other game.

There are still a few remote and almost inaccessible spots adjoining the mountains where a good shot might secure from twenty to thirty couple a day, but on all easily reached grounds that in old days were alive with Snipe the bird is now but sparingly represented. However, sportsmen who are able to range over the wilder parts of the county still meet with a few Snipe to give an agreeable variety to the bag, and we used to get sixty couple or so in the course of the season around Stone Hall.

The Snipe still nests all over the county in suitable places, and on a summer evening’s walk its peculiar drumming is one of the country sounds certain to meet the ear. There were every season a few nests at no great distance from our residence, and the young birds generally “came down” (the local term for hatching off) successfully.

Varieties of the Snipe are not very common. Captain John Tucker Edwardes, of Sealyham, firing into a wisp that rose one frosty morning by the side of one of the small ponds at Stone Hall, shot a pure white Snipe, and curiously enough did not observe it when it was flushed among the other Snipe. We examined this specimen at Sealyham, and could not detect any darker feathers upon it, and it was evidently a perfect albino. Sir Hugh Owen shot a White Snipe at Llanstinan, in 1853, and another very light coloured one in 1855, that he presented to Mr. John Stokes, of Cuffern, by whom it was beautifully mounted. This bird we found to be nearly completely white, one or two of the scapular feathers only being a pale buff. One that fell to our own gun, was a very pretty mealy variety, being powdered over the head and shoulders with small specks of white.

We have, once or twice shot Snipe in the so-called Scolopax russata plumage, but these we looked upon as large male birds in a transitional stage of moult. We have seen Snipe in this red plumage in the middle of April.

The outline of the tail in the full, or Common Snipe depends entirely on the growth of the tail feathers; if the outer feathers are not fully grown one has the bird with pointed tail ; or, if the outer feathers have attained their full length while the central ones have not done so, then there is the wedge-tailed Snipe that we have often shot at the beginning of the autumn, specimens of which have once or twice been forwarded to us, and supposed to be a distinct variety.

We have never seen one of the dark plumaged Snipe, that used to be known as “Sabine’s Snipe,” in Pembrokeshire, but among the myriads of Snipe that were formerly obtained we doubt not it has occurred. The Welsh name of the Snipe, “giach,” is a good rendering of the cry of the bird.

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Snipe in Pembrokeshire