Posts Tagged ‘Snow Buntings



On the Scottish Tour earlier this month one of the several key species we aim to see is Snow Bunting. They breed high in the Scottish mountains so their plumage is far different from the somewhat drab wintering birds we see in Norfolk. We found this skulking male in among a rock wall sheltering from the wind.

Next years tours to Scotland in April are now advertised. Two trips to choose from. Details are here and here


A walk on the beach

It was about time we took a walk on the beach. New Year’s day seemed like an ideal opportunity. You know what it’s like, the heaped dinners, optics of spirits and enough sugary stuff to double the share price at Tate & Lyle. The coast at Happisburgh was calling. The problem is it was calling every other person in Norfolk too … and their dogs! Big dogs, little dogs, running dogs, leaping dogs, single dogs, multiple dogs. You get the picture; it was heaving. We’d brought camera and bins. I now wondered why.

Normally we walk south east along the sand but we decided to walk north west at the back of the sea defences. Apart from a lone couple it was surprisingly abandoned. The cliffs might hold something. We had walked less than half a mile before a couple of birds dropped off the boulder clay and magically disappeared among the pebbles all around us; Snow Buntings. Distantly at sea the odd Gannet and Scoter flew through. Closer there were good numbers of Red throated Divers and among them a lone piebald individual with ruddy great white thigh patches and a dagger of an un-tilted bill; a Black throated Diver.

Things were looking up.

Snow Bunting


The ability to observe

I scattered a little seed around and went back to the Landrover to see what it would attract. Black headed Gulls were the first to take advantage and then a few Turnstones arrived. Sitting with the camera to hand I expected a few Snow Buntings to turn up. They have been regular around the car park, as they have in previous winters, but perhaps not in as greater numbers this year. Sure enough it wasn’t too long before a small flock of a dozen flew in and I started snapping away.

I don’t see everything, but I do class myself as relatively observant; but some people must walk around in a world of their own. You would think that a large vehicle with a 400mm lens pointing towards a dozen white birds feeding and shuffling across the shingle would prompt someone to think “What’s he doing? … Oh! he’s photographing birds … let’s give him a wide berth so as not to disturb what’s going on”. No such luck. Drongo and his five Labradors pile straight through between me and the birds and of course the whole shooting match is in the air. Now I’m a tolerant chap and we all have to live together and life will always be a compromise so I settled down to wait for them to return.

25 minutes later, again they fluttered in and once more the whole situation was disrupted almost immediately by yet another visitor with accompanying four legged friends. And so it went on sometimes in true Fentonesque style. In a moment of weakness the thought even presented itself to me that on occasion interventions were not accidental, but I dismissed this thought as decidedly uncharitable. It has to be said even a few bird watchers were not immune from this blinkered vision. It appears we have lost the power to observe. An ability that is essential to survive in the wild has been eroded by our cosseted lifestyle.

This inbuilt reflex is demonstrated by one of the Snow Buntings I was photographing. The bright sunshine and still air had prompted the emergence of an insect or two. Even as it was feeding head down on the shingle the little chap below had his eye on a passing fly.

Snow Bunting



Life’s a beach

Short winter days soon end. It was sunny but cold.

As we walked along the beach last week a flock of Snow Bunting flew in, apparently off the sea. I’m sure they didn’t, but again as they were disturbed by dog walkers the whole flock flew out to sea. We lost sight of them but waited a while until they returned, which they duly did. The whole flock floated in like feathered blossom being carried along on a breezy day. As they landed their long shadows betrayed the lateness of the afternoon. We still managed a further hour or more of light enabling a Short eared Owl to put on an equally impressive performance.

Snow Buntining


Leaving soon

As spring encroaches the number of our winter visitors begins to dwindle.

Here on the coast there are Snow Buntings still, but numbers are reducing.

This particular little bird was moving between gorging on seed and having a long drink from a puddle. Fed and watered it will soon be making its way to Greenland, Iceland or Scandinavia – we have populations from all these areas visiting Norfolk in winter.

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Feb 2023


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