This has been one of the worst winters for birding I can remember. A few weeks ago I was sure the issue must be related to my feeders being low. I went out to fill them and found that they were all full, and waiting patiently in the cold for visitors.
Perhaps this lack of many species I normal look forward to seeing has made me more aware of those that I often neglect. For example, this year has been particularly good for Snow Buntings.
I remember the first time I saw a Snow Bunting. We had just built our first house, which was in a subdivision. Our house was one of the first to be built in a new phase of construction, and so much of the land around us was open field and scrub. One day during an intense storm I looked out my window and noticed a huge flock of white birds moving across the field. They stayed for weeks, and were often visible, moving as a group, like snowflakes rising and falling in the wind.
Snow Buntings come down during the winter from the arctic tundra to eat. They love the cold. They seem made of snow. You can’t really get close to them, or see them well without binoculars. However, even from a distance you can enjoy their brilliant white, fearless confrontation with the cold, and familial existence.
Today I showed my girls a large flock of them in the field across our lane. You could just see them when they happened to lift high enough off the ground to become exposed against the green of the pines–a life sized snow globe revealing winter at its most idyllic and beautiful.