Sunday, April 18, 2010

They're Back!

Here in the Arctic we like to think of the return of the Snow Buntings as the first sign of the awakening of spring.  While it will still be weeks before any flowers are in bloom, the little bird’s melody drifting on the wind lifts ones spirits with this sure  sign of the coming season.
Male Snow Bunting- Mid April
One Snow Bunting was seen on the 4th of April, which set a new record for seeing one in the spring here.  It made one circle around the lodge then was never seen again. So it seems it was an early bird that was traveling to some other destination.  Our first Snow Bunting that came into the feeder arrived on the 17th, which is the long term average arrival date.  The following morning a second male was seen at the feeder, and the two males were busy chasing each other around the yard. 
SNBU_TO_7499Take Off – Male Bunting 
The most recent male has taken to chasing the other one from the feeder every chance he gets.  They still haven’t completely changed into their complete  breeding plumage. Both still have brown caps, brown or black ring across the chest area, and lots of brown in their back feathers.  It will be a while before they have their clear white heads and glossy black backs.
Besides their chirping calls that they make most of the time, I have also heard them making their territorial call.  It sounds like this to me “ATVeeee, ATVeeee”, and is usually made from a high perch next to the area they have selected for nesting.  We have 20 nest boxes around the property for them to use and the males have plenty of time to make a selection as the females won’t start arriving for almost another two weeks.   I watched one male yesterday making his ATVeeee call from several locations, like he was trying out different areas to see where his voice carried the best.

Stepping outside and hearing the sweet melody of the Snow Bunting makes one almost forget that the ground is still 100% snow covered and some of the drifts are nine feet thick.

Checking Out Nest box
The Snow Buntings have been the first birds around the house this winter besides the ever present Raven.  One of the individuals has a wing tag from a study done several years ago by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
            Wing Tagged Raven.

1 comment:

  1. It is always good to see friends return to their old stomping grounds. Thanks for sharing.


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Arctic Smoke Signals by James W. Helmericks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.