Monday, January 11, 2010

snow buntings (lots of them)!!!

Bonne Annee!!!!!

Happy new year!!!!

Back from europe, I did not do much birding lately. Mostly took care of my feeder, where I picked up a nice variety of birds on January 1st (12), always a nice way to start the year!! I finally managed to pass the 200 bird for the year in december, in the least glamourous way. I was checking my notes from 2007, and realized I forgot to report a ruffed grouse I flushed while I was orienteering during the spring 2007, in the waterloo recreation area. This forgotten bird was enough to make me reach the 200 mark for the county, which had been my goal for the year 2010.

Yesterday I managed to join the washtenaw audubon society for a field trip, with the goal to pick up a few winter birds for my year list. Redpolls and Pine Siskins have been proven to be totally absent from the south east side of the state this year, so we reported our hopes into snow buntings, lapland longspurs, and possibly a norther shrike that had been reported during the previous week. Another possibility was a freak mockingbird who decided to winter in our county , feeding on frozen berries.

Weather was quite cold as we met on the parking lot of the mall (5-6 Fahrenheit), but the wind shill made it even worst when we reached the most popular winter destination of the county, named Vreeland Road in Superior Township.

The trip started nicely with a HUGE flock of tree sparrows (200-300 of them!!) next to the conservation farm. Too far for a shot, but I took one anyway, on the road....

But everyone forgot about the cold as we reached the best spot...

SNOW BUNTINGS....dozens, hundreds of them, flying around in flock, landing for a few bites of the putrefied pumpkins. We counted at least 300 of them, spotting amoung them a few horned larks and at least 6 lapland longspurs.

The mockingbird and the shrike were nowhere to be seen, but a sharpie was a nice consolation price. That was three birds I did not list last year in the county, so that's a great start for the year!


Jochen said...

A happy new year!

I miss Superior township and would get all excited about 20 to 30 tree sparrows, not to mention ten times that many.
And seeing lapland longspurs is always a treat, never managed an observation in North America.

All the very best!!

Hilke Breder said...

Aren't those snow buntings beautiful birds!! Their winter markings are so cheerful, almost clownish. I have yet to see a lapland longspur.

Laurent said...

Jochen : I remember I got my first Lapland Longspur at the very same location, 3 years ago (I am afraid you were still in AA, I should have give you a ride that day), in BREEDING plumage. A totally different bird! It was an interesting challenge for me to differenciate between the hundred of buntings and the few longspurs on the field. I found out that they have a slightly different behaviour, tending to stay perched on short stems a little bit longer than the buntings. I had my eyes in a "screening mode", looking at "more stable" targets, and was able to find quite a few like that.

Hilke : Agree about the Buntings. They are so cute. I would love to see one in breeding plumage, though!


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