Latham's Snipe

Subject: Latham's Snipe
From: Judith L-A <>
Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2014 14:16:14 +1000
Having, during March, come upon several Latham's Snipe foraging, over some
weeks, at the mown edge of a roadside dam *at c 400m asl.* in SEQ, I became
curious about most current Australian reports of the species being from
lowlands & coastal areas.

Also, mown ground, & roadside foraging, seem generally contra-indicated in
the accounts -- though there are exceptions in the sources.

Sightings' altitude, however, seems related to publication date.

The yearly data available publicly for March (the middle month of the
northerly migration leaving Vic/Tas annually in Feb & passing out of
northern Australia each year in April), a month that becomes significant at
the end of this email, includes the roughly transcribed notes below (&
related maps etc to be found at the BA Atlas site & eBird webpages).

These compared with older sources lead me to wonder if the recent data
barely records at-elevation sightings because there's less effort, or less
expectation now of seeing the birds in the ranges -- or if the
non-breeding/migrating birds are now rarely using our higher waterbodies.

RECENT sources:

-- BirdlifeAustralia's online profile: "in freshwater wetlands on or near
the coast" <>

-- HBW Alive, members online: "[Breeding habitat ... from coast up to 1400
m] ... Erratic movements in non-breeding quarters, probably in response to
rainfall and food availability. S Australia vacated in late Feb, and birds
move gradually to N Australia ...
... sensitive to disturbance by humans and grazing cattle, although
sometimes inhabits wetlands prone to disturbance, e.g. ...along roads..."

-- The composite-March maps from Birdata & eBird show predominantly lowland
sightings when zoomed-in.

--  However, many of the "Flats" etc named in birding-aus sightings are
unfamiliar locations to me, so I wonder if I'm under-reading recent reports
at elevation?

OLDER sources, however:

-- Garnett & Crowley's 2000: "Action Plan for Australian Birds"
(hardcopy!): "the species readily occupies artificial...swamps. Mowing of
habitat during summer can render habitat unsuitable for months at a time."

-- Pringle's "Shorebirds" volume of the National Photographic Index: "
*alpine* bogs... Australia generally, coastal and inland, *including

-- The original "Atlas of Australian Birds" (also a book!): "lives singly
or in small groups *at all altitudes*"

-- HANZAB (References till about 1993): Habitat included "*alpine,
subalpine* ...heath"... "sometimes recorded in wetlands prone to
disturbance, e.g. to roads..." Distribution included "Qld E. coast
and *tablelands* ... Tas...Central Plateau ...
SA...occasionally...*Mt*Lofty Ras". Non-breeding movements also
included references to seasonal
movements / relating also to rain & food availability, between low &
*high*country in Tas & Vic late in the year, & in NSW prior to
emigration. The
stomach contents of (a startling number of) birds were studied around
Cooma-Jindabyne. Perhaps significantly for the birds in relation to the
altitude questions of this email were the Weight findings, showing the
birds gaining considerably the most weight at staging points during
northward migration through eastern Australia around March, in "central-n.
NSW" & "n. Aust".

-- Beginning around Feb in 2002, a discussion on birding-aus included
various remarks about the paucity of "*alpine*" bird spp. (even during
summer), and included the first correspondent's surprise, like mine, at
seeing Latham's Snipe recorded at elevation.

-- Rowley's "Birds of the Australian High Country", however, seems to
discuss Latham's Snipe at Canberra-height, & not in the mountains nearby
(e.g. Cooma-Jindabyne, whereat Frith is cited in HANZAB).

My conclusion is that highland waterbodies may be important for Latham's
Snipes' migratory weight-gain in March, but that the birds may be
under-observed at these sites. This could be due to cumulative
disappearance of this habitat from our local Latham's Snipe

What do you think?



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