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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Buntings of the Snow

[Lake St. Clair Metropark, Michigan, December 2012]

... or shall we say, the "Snow Bunting": this denizen of the high arctic is found in all circumpolar regions of the world (as well as in a small isolated population in Scotland):

I picked what was possibly the worst day to bird for snow bunting in 2012, low light, howling winds, and freezing temperatures that all conspired to make a miserable day in to a painfully fruitless one as well. Having given up all hope, a final desperate foray to the shores of Lake St. Clair Metropark, however, rekindled man's hope in Birding.

A small flock of perhaps a half-dozen buntings were enjoying, what was probably to them, a balmy winter day. This species is known to have one of the most Northern wintering ranges for passerines.

Snow Bunting (male) in basic plumage (above).

Snow buntings are one of the early migrants in Spring; arriving at their arctic breeding grounds in April when temperatures can easily be negative 30 degrees. Because they nest on the cold ground, the female bunting is confined to 7x24 incubation duty and requires feeding by the male for nourishment.

Other birds in the vicinity were American Tree Sparrow Black-capped Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker.

 American Tree Sparrow is another cold-weather specialist.

The chickadee:

And the woody:

Overall, a satisfactory outing thanks to the buntings.

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