Starting with Snow Bunting
It has been a relatively slow start to 2013 due to generally poor weather and lack of light. My original intention when I headed out, a couple weeks back, was to go and photograph some woodland birds. As I approached the site and looked upwards it was plainly evident it was not going to get much light. Conditions were looking clearer over towards North Wales so I switched plans and decided to go and find some winter thrushes. However, they obviously had other ideas with no sign of them at one of the sites I regularly visit. My first session of 2013 was going down hill fast. What to do now, where to go? I wanted something that was going to be reliable as really did not want to start the year badly and return home with empty memory cards in the cameras. Having decided I was already probably half way there my final plan was to head further in to North Wales to a well known beach where Snow Bunting can be found.
It is slightly ironic that I sit here now writing about Snow Bunting and there is a thin blanket of snow, the first of the winter, outside the window. Needless to say unfortunately there was none during my visit to the buntings.
The Snow Buntings have used this beach reliably for several years and forage around the tide line amongst the pebbles and sand patches for washed up seed. It is common for this species to head down to the coast and spend the winters along beaches. As they are quite well known at this site, they also receive seed handouts from the numerous bird watchers and photographers that visit. My friend and his wife were there when I arrived so I went to join them. The wait was fairly short before a flock of around fifteen birds landed a short way down the beach on top of the crest of accumulated ridge of pebbles on the upper shore.
The light from above was soft and combined with that reflected off the bright pebbles provided some good illumination.
Two points to note of this male bird shown in mid-scratch in the photograph above. Firstly the characteristic bunting shaped beak with the small upper bill that site down within the rolled groove of the lower. Perfectly adapted for rapidly de-husking and handling seeds. The second is the feet and as is common with many species that spend time on the ground, the extended hind claw. One thing I noticed on this occasion with the feet is they appear to have a good 'tread' which I suppose is prudent when you spend a good deal of time on ice and snow. Not that they would have far to fall if they slipped.
It turned in to a productive couple of hours with plenty of photo opportunities, with the birds posing well and with time to try different angles and capture different settings. The memory card would not be going home empty after all. An enjoyable start to my year, spent in good company with a group of stunning little birds.