A few years ago, I discovered the snipe. There was this strange moving sound, a rapid hu-hu-hu-hu-hu, seemingly right overhead though I could not find its source. I had never heard one before, but wondered if it could be the winnow of a snipe (produced by the modified outer tail feathers). A quick listen to some recordings on the internet when I returned home confirmed it, and ever since, the month of April sends me in search of snipe.
Last year, squinting against the rising sun, we actually managed to see them in flight: tiny, long-billed black specks, whizzing across the sky.
And this year, well, this year was the best year yet. As we listened, delighted, to their winnowing, and spotted them in the sky above the marsh, we began to hear abrupt peent! calls coming from the cattails. First here, then over there, then there, and there, and there. It was the vocal call of the snipe, and though we could not see them, they were all around us. Filled with wonder and delight, we stood there listening, absolutely and utterly surrounded by snipe. I’m not sure now if I had a silly smile, or if my mouth was hanging open as I held my breath. But either way, those really are the best birding moments.