There comes a point in every marsh tit's life when he realises it's time to take up his wellies and squelch through a flooded sedge-bed in search of jack snipe. On Saturday night I met Nigel and Trine under the flickering lamp of a windswept, half-abandoned car park (actually it was Morisson's but where's the intrigue in that?). In return for a briefcase full of used notes Nigel slipped me information on where to find jack snipe. In the week he'd been driving his herd of Highland cattle off a sludge-laden SSSI managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust in the Wensum valley. During his cattle-rounding he'd put up a jack snipe. I should go there.
Today I made fine progress on one of two contracts I am finishing for Norfolk Wildlife Trust. At lunchtime a rare winter sun was smiling on the landscape and, as a pat on the back for good work done, I resolved to hunt snipe. I rang Leanne. She would like to go with me. Two pairs of wellies later we were squelching.
For an hour we quartered the rushes and sedges in search of our bird and I began to understand how life must feel to a marsh harrier. We put up seven common snipe, which flicked away giving their opening-a-shaken-can-of-Pepsi call (or any cola of your choice; it doesn't do to endorse). I got my welly wedged in a deep patch of cattle-pocked mud and Leanne fell on her hands in the blackish ooze (as my Norfolk great-grandfather would have said: she cut an arser). We laughed and we loved our afternoon's squelch in the kindly light of a December afternoon by the Wensum. But we saw no jack snipe.