Buntings’ snow

26 03 2013

“We live in a strange bubble”

– Brian Molko

Today we woke up early, but not as early as it could had been. The cold temperatures forces us day by day to start the ringing in the Lighthouse one hour and a half after the dawn. To be honest, at 6 o’clock is the same cold than at 5 and, actually, the same than at 10, but at least we don’t feel we are the only stupid ones waking up at 4. This morning I went out of bed without knowing where I was. The sense of time is lost after a few days working more based in the sunlight than neither in the clock nor the calendar. As expected, the ringing session ended with only one bird caught: a great tit. However, I saw a male serin, which is the first to be sighted this year in Sweden and a hint of spring in a middle of another winter-looking morning.

Later on, Helena and me went to Foteviken where a huge flock (up to 130 birds!) of snow buntings had been reported two days before. It was the same place where I had enjoyed the twites something like 10 days ago, so I had good memories of it. The birds where supposed to be in an island not fur from the northernmost point, what meant we may have to walk on the ice of the frozen sea. We did so with surprisingly not too many problems but, after walking all the little island round the birds did not appeared. Helena saw a solitary snow bunting flying over and I saw a solitary twite in the same way, but that was all.

To come back checking the eastern shore of the Foteviken Peninsula is probably the best idea I’ve had in weeks. First of all, we saw many twites, realizing how variable are they. While I was seeing a very pale bird, with only traces of black in both the underparts and the mantle, Helena said she was seeing a bird that looked almost completely black above. It seems there is not much information about twite’ phylogeny, even there are many isolated populations or, at least, more isolated than redpolls. The notable difference between the Turkish brevirostris race and the northern one is pointed out by many birders in most of trip reports and it’s actually a very distinct form which probably deserves a better look.

Carduelis flavirostris

When getting close to a second flock of twites, the huge flock of snow buntings just flew over us and landed nearby. Of course I’ve never seen a flock like that and it was really nice to heard them calling, seeing them landing and finally feeding on a well-preserved sea salt marsh. The flock was restlessly moving from one place to another. Even we enjoyed to see such an amount of white points flying over the swamp, I would had liked to have enough time to look at the age and sex of the birds. I only managed to notice they were some “bright white” males and some “male-looking” females, which is actually good enough keeping in mind that most of vagrant snow buntings in Catalonia are not aged properly.

plectros blus sky

Plectrophenax nivalis4

Plectrophenax nivalis2

In one of their flights, the flock moved a bit northwards and we decided to go there to try to get better views of them. Only 100 metres from where we were looking at the snow buntings, we flushed 2 short-eared owls. This birds are always amazing… They were flying on their stunning way, but finally landed after a while. It would be a good idea to be there at sunset en enjoy them hunting or even displaying.

Asio flammeus

After a busy moment, we spotted the buntings again, but it was a fidget flock! This time we managed to get better views, but let me post another picture of the birds flying over. It’s not only for the birds but for something even rarer up there: the blue sky.

Plectrophenax nivalis3

Plectrophenax nivalis5

Plectrophenax nivalis6

plectros blue sky

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