Photo of Snow Bunting

Photographing Snow Buntings and Why Bird Photography is so COOL

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Migratory Madness

It’s still fairly early in Spring, and we are seeing lots of bird species that have either not yet left their wintering grounds in Michigan or are just passing through to their ultimate nesting ground destination.  It seems that each bird has its own migratory story and it’s fun to discover from whence they came and where they are going.

Photograph of Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting Deciding to Linger, despite the photographer at his back.
I thought for sure he would take off, so I set a very fast shutter speed.
ISO 800; f/8.0; 1/3200 Second

Lingering Snow Bunting

Driving slowly down a country road, we came upon a lone male snow bunting, eating seeds on the ground. As birds go, he did not appear too nervous, though he kept a watchful eye on the car. I had never seen this bird before and could not ID him. I felt the anxiety rise inside me as I quickly and quietly set the camera on the car’s window ledge and pointed the lens toward him. Turns out that he didn’t mind posing. I got off 50 shots before he went on his way.

After consulting our resource books and the experts at WhatBird, we learned that this bird is an arctic snow bunting, wintering in Michigan and no doubt stocking up on his food reservoir before he takes off for northern Canada. According to my resources, this little guy should have left Michigan in March (females follows 2-3 weeks later) so we were lucky to see him still lingering in early April. Arctic snow buntings must have antifreeze in their blood. They are known to survive -55 degree temperatures.

Photograph of Male Snow Bunting
Male Snow Bunting, Stretching His Feathers, Looking Rather Relaxed, despite the Car and the Camera
ISO 250; f/9.0; 1/2000 Second

Why Bird Photograph is so COOL

This snow bunting encounter reminds me why the art of bird photography is so very satisfying. You never know what will transpire. Many factors impact your experience…light, luck, skill, equipment, weather, instinct, food, migration…. the list goes on and on. You learn about humility, patience, and perseverance. You struggle with uncertainty and complexity.  And somehow, it all comes together and you have a lovely and unexpected encounter. It is nothing short of exhilarating. And even after a very good day, somehow you know that the best is yet to come.

I hope you all enjoy your birding experiences this Spring. There’s lots out there to enjoy.

 

 

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