Friday, 4 November 2016

First snow of winter

This morning, I dashed over to Kineton, where a friend had reported seeing a Snow Bunting in the last few days. She took me to fields near her house, and we quickly bumped into two dog-walkers who said they'd seen an unusual bird on the path a little way ahead. What they7 described was clearly the Snow Bunting.

Nicci left at that point, and I walked on slowly, scanning the field margins for any small birds. No luck, except for a single Pied Wagtail. Turns out I was looking in the wrong place. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, a whirr of wings, and the Snow Bunting lifted from where it was, a few yards behind me, and flew past to a point 10 yards down the path.

I watched for 20 minutes or so, during which it kept its back to me almost all the time, and moved in a rather crouched posture. I was down on hands and knees trying to get photos, and I was able to approach to within a few yards at times.

There's two reasons why it might have been so confiding. I've seen Snow Buntings before on top of Ben Nevis and other Scottish mountains, where they happily feed on walkers' sandwich crumbs, so it's possible that it's very used to humans. More likely, I think, is that this is a bird that has seen very few humans previously – it may well have come from Arctic Norway, and if it's a first-winter bird (I think it is, but don't really know SBs well enough), the dog-walkers and birders of the English Midlands might just not register with it as a potential threat.

By this time, it was starting to rain, and I was beginning to think about breakfast, so I left the bunting to its own devices, as little flocks of Rooks and Fieldfares streamed overhead, and Buzzards and Ravens started to soar over nearby Edgehill. Great bird to see on an inland patch – thanks to Nicci for making it happen.

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