Snow Buntings in a suit

Post image for Snow Buntings in a suit

by DaleForbes on December 5, 2010 · 4 comments

in Birding Western Palearctic

Tirol is a pretty much a winter wonderland – great big pointy Alps, covered in fluffy white snow. Picture book, really.

And you would think that with all these great big mountains and snow, that we would have an abundance of all these birds that call themselves Snow-somethingorother. Like Snowfinch (tick), Snow Geese (we have geese?), Snowy Owl (only the Tengmalms and Pygmies that just got snowed on), Snowcocks (Rock Ptarmigans will have to do), and the fantabulously gorgeous Snow Bunting. This last is, unfortunately, rare in Tirol. But what a stunning bird. Ever since coming to Europe, I have wanted to see a Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis). And a Snowy Owl, but that is another story altogether.

So I spent Friday morning being very productive at work, and got out of an early afternoon meeting to a missed call on my phone from a local birding friend. To cut a boring story short, I ended up a few minutes later traipsing through the fields of the next village looking for a special flock of skylarks.

Note to self: a suit does not qualify as suitable attire when birding in fields, and even less so when it is -5°C and there is 20cm of snow on said fields (23°F and 8in). But after a little while looking Paul and I found a small flock of skylarks and chaffinches that looked rather promising. We scanned them carefully, but nothing yet. And with a couple of chirps he flew on by. Awesome awesome awesome. What a stunning bird!

Snow Bunting digiscoped by Marjan Cigoj (c). Entered in the 2010 Swarovski Digiscoper of the Year and I am hoping that the judges love it as much as I do.

Normally I am very keen to stick my face behind my camera, but I must admit that I way not too upset that I did not have my digiscoping stuff with me. The bird was just so gorgeous that I just stood there admiring it, appreciating it, in wonder. But one day, I will get somewhere where I can get some photos of them. In the meantime, I will have to just settle for looking at the stunning images of others.

My favorite image (and my pick for first place) in 2009’s Swarovski Digiscoper of the Year competition, was Peter Nilsson‘s photo of the Snow Bunting at the top. After all the judges’ votes were in, it ended up winning 4th place. What I liked so much about the image is the starkness of it. There is a power and intensity to it that are nicely juxtaposed to its subtleties. Peter Nilsson has entered a few more stunning images in the 2010 Swarovski Digiscoper of the Year – he is a master of winter mood photography.

Snow Bunting digiscoped by Peter Nilsson (c). From the same set as the image at the top (which won 4th place in the 2009 Swarovski Digiscoper of the Year competition)

Another photo that really stood out in this year’s Digiscoper of the Year, was the Snow Bunting by Marjan Cigoj (above). An image of stunning colours and beauty, showing off the Snow Bunting in a very different way to Peter Nilsson.

Happy digiscoping and good luck to both Peter and Cigoj!

Dale Forbes

here is a short video with some images of Tirol from the air

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca December 5, 2010 at 11:36 am

Great posting Dale, I agree Snow Buntings are stunning birds and they certainly look their best in the snow! Hope you end up with a dream, award-winning digi-scoped shot of one of these!


Martin Garner December 5, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Cracking post Dale


DaleForbes December 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

thanks Martin and Rebecca! One day I will get those photos. I am hatching a plan…


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