I reported last year that I had seen a Japanese (Latham's) Snipe (Capella hardwickii) on the banks of the Nepean River, (in Kangaloon) last summer. This turned out to be significant, as it is a migratory species which is listed on an International Treaty with Japan, which gives it status as an "Endangered Species" under the Federal environment legislation, the EPBC Act. This was one of the species on which we based our case for the Kangaloon Aquifer borefield proposal by the SCA to be deemed a "Controlled Action". Malcolm Turnbull made that decision on 13 July 2007, and now the SCA is required to submit its environment assessment on the borefield to the Federal authorities, in addition to the requirements under State legislation.
Yesterday, while I was at Tourist Road, looking for Greenhood Orchids, or other Orchids which appear to favour wet areas, I realised I was being watched by a Japanese Snipe, sitting about 40 metres from the road, right on the edge of a swamp in private farming land, beside Tourist Road. This bird was nearly hidden in long pasture grass, beside the small creek which flows under Tourist Road, across another patch of farming land, and then joins the Nepean River, in the SCA Catchment. We are less than 500 metres from the Nepean River crossing, where I saw this species, last year.This bird was quite nervous, and flew away, once it realise I was trying to photograph it. For all it knew, I might have been wanting to shoot it. Little does it know, I have been working to protect it.
There was at least one other Japanese Snipe about 150 metres away from me, on the near edge of the swamp (in a further distant section). The bird was clearly visible, but the photos are overly pixellated to be good quality, but they are recognisable. They show the bird actively feeding on the edge of the swamp.
Snipes are short-legged Wading birds, with very long bills, which they use to probe soft mud to collect aquatic creatures, worms and crustaceans. They have been long regarded as a "sporting bird" (from the point of view of hunters). They fly very quickly, rising suddenly from cover, flying for a relatively short distance, then dropping suddenly back into deep cover of long grass or rushes and reeds. Once they have landed, they then settle down, and cautiously resume browsing for feed.
As can be seen in these photographs, (even the distant photos) these birds have very large eyes. Furthermore, their eyes are placed on the side of their head - giving them approximately 320 degree vision, perfect for birds which are subject to predation by other birds, animals, and modern homo sapiens hunters. This bird is now protected in Australia and Japan, but as a migrant it has to survive travelling via Indonesia and the Philippines before it returns to Japan and China and Korea, to breed.
Its a dangerous world out there, for Snipes. The long migratory journey itself is a huge challenge, especially in swamps and rivers which are under pressure from industrial pollution. That fact alone reduces their reliable food supplies.