Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

White Lightning

"White lightning" is a term for bootleg liquor, which I truly needed to consume after spending a few hours with another kind of "white lightning" last week-end: Snow Buntings. 

My first sighting of these white beauties for the 2014/2015 winter season was back in December when I spotted half a dozen, but my first significant sighting occurred in mid-January outside of Lindsay:

In early February I found another semi-reliable location for Snow Buntings, but in much smaller numbers. A few of that flock are seen enduring high winds and blowing snow (in other words, a typical winter's day, brrrrrr!):

But it was at Susan and Dan's Melmar Farm in the Kawarthas where all the Snow Bunting action was, as their usual mob had returned for the season. 

Not many, perhaps four or five hundred: 

The feeding trough is frequently replenished throughout the day:

I had the honour of releasing a Snow Bunting in this very same spot three years ago that had been in the care of the Toronto Wildlife Centre: 

I couldn't help but wonder and hope that perhaps it was amongst this flock...

For the next few hours I parked myself in the snow (with thanks to Dan for shoveling me a path!) and observed these beautiful snowflakes that constantly exploded into the air above me. 

When a car drove by, they flushed. 
When Blue Jays came to the feeders, they flushed. 
When a Pileated Woodpecker came to the feeder, they flushed. 
When I moved an inch, they flushed. 
It was exhausting, yet exhilarating to watch. 

They would start off in an oak tree across the road...

...and then would gradually fly in to trees that were closer to the feed..

...and some would land in the tree right next to me:

...and others would land on the wires:

...with their final destination of the feeding trough:

In the willow tree:

And again in the tree right next to my perch!

It was wonderful to observe and listen to them, but also extremely challenging from a photography perspective, as my goal was a flight shot:

Nope, no decent flight shot. 

Nope, no decent flight shot.

I call these my "snow blob" shots as the white blob in the background is another Snow Bunting zooming through:

The braver Buntings kept checking me out:

A nice willow bokeh...

...and then poof, it was gone with no notice given, no matter how hard I studied their behaviour. 

Nope, no decent flight shot. 

And so it continued for hours, back to the trees and wires and seed, trees, wires, and seed:

Another close-up visitor arrived...

...and then left, on its own terms!

Back to the trees:

In the willow:

Back to the feeding trough:

Landing on the wires:

Perhaps Dan and Susan realized I needed a break from these exhaustingly flighty birds, so Dan took me to a private feeder in the area that had a resident pair of Helmeted Guineafowl (!!!). 

I was in love.

or perhaps just because they were stationary

This was a new addition to my preening portfolio!

The finished product, such beautiful markings on the feathers: 

This angle made me laugh out loud, as the head of the gray bird is soooo out of proportion with the body!

We returned to Snow Bunting HELL heaven where my only flight shots in the end were these ones. 

White lightning indeed, grrrrr:

It was back to the wires for me, and even those were tough to achieve:

Yet they still charmed me in the end!

My final burst of white for the day occurred a few hours later. This Snowy Owl was in her usual spot on my way home, bringing my day total to seven for this species:

Many thanks to Susan and Dan for their gracious hospitality and sharing their White Lightning with me!

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