Known for its camouflage and the male bird?s extraordinary ?drumming? display ? made by diving with outer tail feathers outstretched to create a low whirring sound ? the common snipe has long been a favourite of shooters both as a quarry species and as an indicator of good biodiversity.

The Game Conservancy Trust?s (GCT) Dr Andrew Hoodless, the scientist responsible for much of the research work sponsored by the Shooting Times? Woodcock Club, has recently completed a scientific paper due to be published next month. The common snipe is renowned as one of Britain?s hardest wader species to count when breeding because the birds are so inconspicuous.

Dr Hoodless said: ?In lowland Britain, we know that the species has declined by about 62 per cent over the past 20 years, due to the loss or deterioration of its wetland habitats,? added Dr Hoodless, ?however, we are much less clear about their status in the uplands. It is thought that breeding snipe are more widespread and numerous in northern Britain, but there is some evidence of declines on upland marginal grasslands, probably due to agricultural improvement. However, use of moorland habitats by snipe remains poorly understood.?