Siberian Snow Bunting

Should it be on the British List?

Heading up the northern shoreline of the Varanger fjord, Tormod and I encountered some fantastic flocks of seaducks. With some much food-rich water, most bays contain seaducks and gulls.  With a bit of looking a few Steller’s Eiderwere found and stragglers of the wintering King Eider population. In one bay we counted over 4,000 Long-tailed Duck. We also found a flock of Common Scoter which at one point came under attack by a White-tailed Eagle (quite a sight!) and a small pod of Velvet Scoter nearby (yes I did look for rarer vagrants amoung them!)

We then called in again at my insistence to see the redpolls at Skellelv. On the way out of the village we encountered a flock of c100 + Snow Buntings and I soon latched onto one with stunningly large area of white on the upperparts. Got Tormod onto it and told him I thought it was probably a Siberian bird (ssp. vlasowae). I have mentioned these before:

http://birdingfrontiers.com/2010/12/13/snow-bunting-races-or-species/

Siberian Snow Buntings apparently breed from the base of the Petchora river (NW European Russia through to far east Siberia – Chukotka etc). See a Japanese field guides to see what they look like. Well it would seem highly likely to me that some ssp. vlasowae could easily reach here regularly given how near the Petchora is from Varanger. I bet some even make it to Britain. The hardy Arctic buntings like Snow and Lapland are also mega- travelers. Here’s what it looked like (sorry the photos not great):

Siberian Snow Bunting, ssp. vlasowae, Skellelv, Varanger, 12 May 2011.

I don’t think Siberian Snow Buntings are viewed as mega rare in Norway. I guess they are occasionally encountered in flock of nominate nivalis– as we did. In Britain, with a bit of looking and asking, I learnt there have been candidates in Berkshire (old specimen), Worcester, Northumberland and North Norfolk, (especially thanks to Chris Kehoe).

Worth looking for don’t you think …!!??

There is talk of intergrades. Here’s another male  (bottom right of photo) Tormod and I had in the same flock which shows extensive white with small patch of warm butterscotch brown (sound tasty colour doesn’t it?). We discussed this bird at the time and I wasn’t inclined to claim this as vlasowae but hypothetically maybe this what an intergrade male might look like?

Fieldfare and Redwing are also the commonest thrushes with the occasional Continental Song Thrush. This Fieldfare was in the ‘Redpoll garden’

Mystery Photo:

I will be doing a longer bit of easy and tricky redpolls. For now a lovely male Arctic Redpoll with the most extensively coloured underparts I saw- but I never saw any  male Arctics  with deeper colour of pink than this.

So what is the ID of the bird below do you think? Mealy Redpoll or Arctic Redpoll?

Is it an Arctic or a  Mealy?? (my answer soon)


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  1. Pingback: The Arctic comes to my Garden | Birding Frontiers

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