Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow Buntings!

We walked slowly along the beach at Tawas Point State Park, scanning the peaks and valley and stands of dune grass on this sandy peninsula for any sign of a Snowy Owl.  It is probably only because we were looking so carefully that I noticed the two small birds before I got close enough to scare them away.  I stopped dead in my tracks and got the camera on them.  When I peered through the lens I gasped.


I waved to the girls to get them to stop and pointed the birds out to them.  Binoculars went up, followed by oohs and ahhs.

I don't know why, but this is one of those birds that I have wanted to see for years.  They are not really all that uncommon around here in the winter, and I may have seen a whole flock of them in a field on the side of the road as we were zipping along in the Jeep a few years ago, but I didn't have a chance to actually ID them.  There was no doubt this time!  I am pretty sure these are two females.


The pair moved over the snow covered beach picking seeds off the dried winter weeds and grasses.

They were far enough away that I couldn't focus on them easily, not to mention the stiff breeze that was blowing under my glasses and making my contacts go wanky.  I had to rely on the autofocus, and it was picking up the grasses in front of the birds rather than the birds themselves.  Ah well, I am still thrilled that I got shots of them. 

The snow was soft enough that they often sank down into the snow, and sometimes when they ran it looked like they were scooting along on their bellies.

It was not too long before my fingers and thumb started to ache from the cold.  Fortunately the birds finished their scavenging and moved off farther down the beach.  What a wonderful experience though to finally get to see these beautiful little birds!  (Check out this link for more info on the Snow Bunting from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.)

Next:  A visit to the East Tawas pier, and another "life list" bird!

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