Thursday, December 22, 2011

Snow Bunting?

Finally, after about three and half weeks, I got out of the house to go birding. Seems like a long time.
I decided that instead of going off to one of my favorite birding spots, I'd take a chance and chase the Snow Bunting that had been reported along Broughton Beach and then later in an old parking lot just west of PDX. I haven't had a lot of luck chasing birds, but this one seemed to be pretty reliable and wasn't far from home.
My luck was good as when I arrived there were two other birders already there viewing it from their cars as it sat perched on the barbed fence surrounding the lot.
I tried to creep in among the spectators, but the bird flew off before I got there, but it wasn't long before it was re-found on the concrete surface of the lot. I'm sure it would appear a little comical to anyone observing our cars as they slowly wandered around the lot and in fact a few airport security cars circled occasionally from just outside the area.
After a few failed attempts to get in close, I finally got an opportunity to move in by myself and was able to get quite close without spooking it. Unfortunately it was a typical gloomy Oregon winter day so my pictures are less than great, but I'm not complaining.

As I watched the bunting I started noticing that it had an interesting way of feeding on the dead grass stalks. It would take the stalk in its beak and then repeatedly chomp on it while sliding it through its beak. It did this very quickly like a buzz saw.

Once the bird finally flew off I noticed that there was a line of cars behind me so I decided I had seen enough and went looking for a parking spot near Broughton Beach so I could spend some time there.
To my surprise, not more than 45 minutes after I left the lot, I found the bunting again down along the Columbia River's banks. I'm not used to that kind of luck. :-)
I was pretty happy with my outing, having seen a new life bird and getting reasonably good pictures of it; until I got back home and checked my email. Seems some of our more talented area birders were starting to question the identity of this bird. Many were puzzling over inconsistencies in its plumage. It doesn't help that Snow Bunting are rare for this area, so there's not a lot of expertise. The general consensus is that its more likely a hybrid with its close relative, the McKay's Bunting. If this turns out to be true, I can't technically add it to my life list. Time will tell.
For an interesting discussion of this bird check out Shawneen Finnegan's journal entry at BirdFellow.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you got to see it! Your photos are great. I walk from Broughton Beach to the Sea Scout Base about once a week with my dogs, regardless of bird sightings, so it's funny to hear of all these people making their way out there. I'm definitely curious if a consensus will ever be reached.