Sunday, November 10, 2013

Snow Good

Yes, it’s an awful pun but very good to catch up with that wanderer from close to the Arctic Circle, the elusive Snow Bunting. Still no northern thrushes, but all week there’s been Snow Buntings dotted around the UK, even a flock of more than 30 on the North East coast. 

Last week’s high tides left lots of tide wrack, an environment which Snow Buntings often exploit, and I’ve been half hoping to see the whitish buntings along local shores. It was the early morning walk at Pilling which turned up trumps when I recognised the clear “tew” calls and watched a party of eight arrive high from across Morecambe Bay to then settle down on the tideline ahead. 

Within minutes a jogger had sent the birds into the air, calling as they went, me cursing as I watched the birds fly off. Luckily I found a single one further along the walk, possibly a returnee of the original party or a ninth bird. This one hunkered down from the westerly wind and buried itself in the tidal debris where it rapidly found lots of seeds. It ate so fast and continuously that I had to use ISO400 to stop the action. The tide wrack is very deep, the bird so submerged in it that I couldn’t get a single shot to show its shiny black legs, but viewers will get the overall picture. 

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

It’s a number of years since I watched Snow Buntings at the top of the Cairngorms in Scotland, one of the species’ few UK breeding sites. For readers yet to see a summer Snow Bunting below is a photograph courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service which shows the species in its summery but snowy surroundings and wearing seasonal dress. 

Snow Bunting - courtesy of USFWS

After taking a number of shots I wished my Snow Bunting good luck, left it searching through the tideline and continued my walk west to Pilling Water. 

Kingfishers are the most frustrating bird, so tiny and inconspicuous, sitting silently on a featureless bit of the landscape where their fine-tuned eyesight can spot a human being from 100 yards to allow a quick escape. I was beaten again when one circled ahead of me at Broadfleet and then flew back in the direction I’d just travelled.

Sea Embankment - Pilling

Godwits were in force at the flooded stubble fields with 80 Black-tailed Godwits, plus 15 Redshank, 200+ Lapwing, 60+ Skylark, 1 Golden Plover, 6 Snipe, 2 Linnets, 3 Greenfinch and 8 Meadow Pipits. 

Meadow Pipit

Mute Swan

Out on the marsh, 35 Whooper Swan, 6 Mute Swan, 6 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Raven. Raptors seen: a pair of Kestrels together and a Sparrowhawk mobbed by the usual crows. 

That’s all for now but don’t forget that it’s not too late to enter the free draw for a signed copy of The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland here on Another Bird Blog via Wednesday's posting.

Linking today to Stewart's Bird Gallery .

24 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Phil, I love all your Snow Bunting photos. It took me a long time to see the Snow Buntings here, now I know exactly where to find them. Pretty shots of the Pipit and the swans in flight. Happy Birding!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

I love, love, love the Snow Buntings and as I have probably said dozens of times, one day, I want to see one. In the meantime, these images are awesome, just beautiful. I also enjoyed seeing another Mute Swan flight image, so cool. Have a happy week Phil~

Carole M. said...

Snow Bunting's I love the sound of the name. What a treat, you early-bird catching the Snow Buntings at Pilling. It amazes me how the 'snow-birds' feel no pain in their feet; do they not have blood coursing through their veins? The Kingfishers are elusive and spectacular; never mind missing out ... next time Phil. Cheers!

Russell Jenkins said...

Nice pictures of the bunting, Phil. I'm afraid these days bird photographers need to carry binoculars/scope, big lens and camera, sturdy tripod, and a full-sized cricket bat. The cricket bat for the joggers and hikers that trod thoughtlessly by dislodging our slowly stalked quarry. (Sorry, that's a joke by the way) I hope no one thinks I'm serious now..but I know the feeling. Happens often in Japan....the hikers...not the cricket thing..sorry, I'll give up now.

Kay L. Davies said...

The snow bunting seems to be eating something different in every photo. I would love to see one myself some day, also.
Beautiful photo of the meadow pipit, and the mute swans in flight are gorgeous.
K

Stewart M said...

Snow buntings are great little birds - I saw my first ones on the beach below Bamburgh in Northumbria/

I have a bit of a plan to catch up with some bloggers next year - I thinking of organising a gathering at Leighton Moss in late July - but thats a long way off!

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Isidro Ortiz said...

Estupendas capturas de esta preciosa ave.Un abrazo

The happy wanderer. said...

Snow Buntings are such tough little birds. We saw them in summer dress on snow and ice, but also fields in Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard on our holiday last year. It's interesting to see your lovely images of them in their winter plumage, and I hope you get more chances to photograph them this winter.

Stuart Price said...

Wonderful Phil. Snow Buntings are one of my fave species. One of my targets photographywise this winter..............

Fun60 said...

Some great shots of the snow bunting. What a thrill to see one.

Laura said...

The snow bunting is so beautiful!

Steve Borichevsky said...

We are lucky that we get small flocks of Snow Buntings here in Massachusetts in the winter. You did a great job with the images.

mick said...

The colors and plumage of the Snow Buntings are very beautiful. I'm glad you got good photos - despite the jogger disturbing the main flock. I am always intrigued with people exercising with ear plugs blocking out sounds - except for their own music - and apparently eyes that don't see what is around them!

Nette Cecilia said...

nice shots ,Nette

TexWisGirl said...

how beautiful!

Chris Rohrer said...

Love the colors of the Snow Bunting. They come down into Wisconsin during the winter to my parent's feeders. Hopefully one of these years I'll be able to see them up close again. Such a sweet bird like several of the others(the SWANS!) you've posted:)

Neil said...

Great photos of the Snow Bunting.

Lou Mary said...

Snow buntings are such charming little birds! Super photos of them too. I am hoping to catch up with some this year but I doubt any images would be anywhere near as good as yours!

Christian Weiß said...

Wonderful photos and an interesting species. I don't like joggers, here is often the same situation.

Terri Buster said...

Lovely shots- I don't think I have ever seen a Snow Bunting

Dave said...

Superb Phil. Lovely Bunts, the breeding plumaged bird is immaculate.

The mute swans shot is fabulous

Karen said...

Sweet little bird with really nice markings. Lovely shots!

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

I love Snow bunting.. Vey good pictures.. Congrats..

Gunilla Bäck said...

Wonderful photos of the snow bunting. I know we have them up in Lapland, but I've never seen them.

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