Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Snow Bunting

Yesterday, I drove John Holden to see the Snowy Owls photographed in the last two posts. The morning was gorgeous but, at -10 degrees Fahrenheit and with a wind chill probably around -20, temperatures were unpleasant. The good news is that we had no problem finding one; the bad news was, to our surprise, the owl was perched on the ground right next to the road and quickly flew.

Twice during the morning we happened upon large flocks of Snow Buntings. We wondered how the buntings handled extreme weather. These Snow Buntings voraciously consumed weed seeds. The species roosts in open areas in small impressions in the snow. When temperatures drop below 20 degrees F, they block the wind by perching behind snowdrifts. They are not known, however, to huddle in tight-knit groups. During blizzards, buntings get covered with snow and, during extreme conditions (like when temperatures drop below -30 degrees), they burrow into the snow (Montgomerie and Lyon 2011).

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