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>> Historical Rarity Records

Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura), Kfar Ruppin, Nov 1998

Yoav Perlman

November 1998 was one of the most exciting periods in my birding history. I was ringing at Kfar Ruppin, and I had excellent partners for rarity finding – Barak Granit and Rami Lindroos. We birded the turf fields close to the kibbutz extensively, and in return the fields produced some wonderful birds.
In the late afternoon of November 17th, Rami found a strange and pallid snipe at the turf fields, but on November 19th Barak already had good views of the bird and identified it as a putative Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura. On November 20th all three of us saw it, and discussed its identification. The literature we had with us at that time was quite limited. We knew this bird was either Pintail or Swinhoe's Snipe Gallinago megala. It had the distinctive wing pattern (no white trailing edge, dark barred underwing, pale wing panel) and short tail. At that time, there was one accepted Israeli record of each species (the Swinhoe's Snipe record was later rejected by the IRDC). We knew that Pintail should be rather small and delicate, but our bird was big and bulky, with a full chest and a long bill. Also its flight call, a delicate 'kwek', was unlike anything described for Pintail.
So on the 23rd we decided to try and catch the bird to positively identify it. The bird was with a flock of about 40 Common Snipes. We set a long row of nets across the field when it was still dark, and at first light slowly started moving the flock towards the nets. The whole flock took off, only three birds out of the flock got caught – and our bird was one of them! This was probably the luckiest moment I had during my career as a ringer.


  Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura)  
Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura), Kfra Ruppin, November 1998
  Kfar Ruppin, Nov 1998 

In the hand we easily identified the bird as a Pintail Snipe by its unique outer tail feathers. This was the second record for Israel, the first being ringed at Eilat in September 1984.
In the attached images the characteristic pattern of the lower scapulars, greater coverts and tertials can be seen, together with the 'open' face pattern, relatively faint mantle streaks and heavily barred chest can be seen. See Granit et al. (1999) for a detailed description of this bird.
After this record, five more putative Pintail Snipes were seen at the Kfar Ruppin turf fields, the last being in September 2003 (James P. Smith et al.). Our lesson from the 1998 bird showed that separating Pintail and Swinhoe's Snipes in the field seems impossible, but these records most probably all relate to Pintail Snipes.
Unfortunately, the Kfar Ruppin turf fields have been abandoned and destroyed, so it seems that future records of Pintail Snipes in Israel will be very few, if any. These fields were extremely attractive to snipes and other shorebirds, and the short turf allowed careful study of each snipe, impossible in other well vegetated sites. 

  Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura)  
Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura), Kfra Ruppin, November 1998
  Kfar Ruppin, Nov 1998 


Literature
Granit, B., Lindroos, R. & Perlman, Y. (1999). Pintail Snipe in Israel in November 1998. Dutch Birding 21(6): 329-333.

We thank Yoav Perman for the photo and detailed description of this sighting.


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