Snow Bunting and Little Auk
A Thursday evening (23rd Oct.) walk out with Ebony, our collie cross bought me lovely views of these two birds. I wasn’t expecting to see much and came back a very happy chappy. It got me reflecting on my love of the arctic. I can’t go there all the time so sometimes the bird from there come to me. I know- not quite in my garden- but close enough.
This is an individual of the nominate form nivalis quickly recognized by the obvious paler greyish mantle area contrasting with darker browner scapulars. Appears to be a first winter male. We get two taxa each winter in Britain. The nominate form as here is considered to be the less common of the two according to information from ringing and birds assigned to subspecies in the hand. They could come from Scandinavia, Svalbard or Greenland.
Then there is the darker taxon insulae from Iceland. Identifying Snow Bunting to their correct age, sex and race can be both challenging and rewarding. Behind each birds lies a fascinating narrative from a species that can survive and thrive in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Taxonomy of Snow Buntings and MacKay’s Bunting of Beringia is a fascinating subject with the Siberian vlasowae of disputed range and validity. I don’t really mind. Birds with that Siberian characters look amazing whatever! I did an old post HERE and there is a paper HERE (though he used the darkest possible Snow Buntings specimens to make his point.) Hmm..
For ageing and sexing on this one amount of white in wing, pattern of underwings, white in primary coverts, shape and pattern of tail feathers.
Siberian Snow Buntings
And I hope one day in Britain to find one that looks like this. The Siberian form vlasowae.
There’s material for another book there…
above- male Siberian Snow Bunting- ssp vlasowae, Vardo, Varanger, March 2012.
Then directly below the cliff top on which the Snow Bunting was feeding, on a becalmed sea, sat this little chap. All the way from the High Arctic.
A very pleasant encounter indeed