Monday, November 02, 2009
Snow Buntings in Flight
On a visit last week to the NH coast at Hampton Beach State Park, I photographed these Snow Buntings — my best so far, flight photos of this species. What dramatic plumage they have in flight, with the black-and-white on their wings and tail. I was down low for these photos, either lying down on my belly, or sitting up, keeping a low profile so as not to disturb the birds. There was a Peregrine Falcon in the area which flew over and the flock exploded, swishing right by me and I could hear their wings. A magic moment.
Made me think about what it might be like to be a member of this flock. There's safety in numbers. The bold pattern of the wings may help flock members keep close visual contact in flight. Interestingly, when the birds land and fold their wings, the buffy, brownish body plumage makes them rather camouflaged against the brown grass, another help with predator avoidance.
Snow Buntings breed in the far north on tundra and rocky slopes. They winter across much of the upper one-third of the U.S, and southern Canada on weedy fields and shores. In summer, the buffy feather edges wear off, revealing the breeding plumage which is more black-and -white especially in males.