Friday, January 20, 2012

Did you say Snow Bunting?!?

Being a good bird nerd, I was checking the Rare Bird Alert posted by the ABA last week, and doing a word search for "Georgia," I found a sighting. And not only was it in Georgia, it was in Chatham County, where we live! And not only was it in Chatham County, it was a short drive away to a hot spot that we've started to familiarize ourselves with. Oh, and the bird… A Snow Bunting!

Snow Bunting Flying

Snow Bunting Flying

Snow Bunting Flying

One of the expert local birders posted the sighting on her blog last Wednesday. So this past weekend, we headed out to the noted location - Tybee North Beach. Since it had been a few days since the sighting, we weren't really expecting to see the Snow Bunting, but we knew this place was a great area for birds any way, so we didn't mind taking our chances. We noticed more cars parked than usual, and we found that it was indeed for this little bunting. As we walked toward one particular hot spot on the beach, we ran into a couple of people who had just seen the bunting and advised that it had been very cooperative and staying out in the open, usually going back and forth from the shore to the dunes.

Snow Bunting on the beach

Snow Bunting with its sandy colors

So walking hurriedly and excitedly, we made it to the hot spot. And lo and behold, within minutes, I located the Snow Bunting! It would definitely have stood out anyway amongst the gulls, terns, and sanderlings, but it flitted in the air right as I was scanning over the area with my binoculars to present itself.

Snow Bunting and its lovely streaking

Snow Bunting

Nick and I inched our way a little closer to get better views. It was no doubt a Snow Bunting, it's pale plumage (but of course, not as pale as its breeding plumage) blending in perfectly with the sand. It was great to see our little visitor that had come down much farther south than its usual winter range. 

Snow Bunting by a dead jellyfish

Snow Bunting (Note size comparison with Sanderling)

Snow Bunting getting some more morsels off of the jellyfish

We watched the bunting for a few minutes as it hopped and flitted about, and even nibbling on some jellyfish (which the sanderlings also did, and which we found amusing as we had never seen them do that before). Well, it was probably nibbling the bugs that were on the dead jellyfish, but still fun to watch. We watched the Snow Bunting for about 10 minutes and had it all to ourselves before more people came by looking for this special little bird. The bunting eventually went from the shore to the dunes behind us, and we watched it for a few minutes more as the crowd also gathered to observe this rarity. We then lost track of the bunting and were not able to relocate it, but we were surely glad to have seen it!

The dunes where other birders are looking for the Snow Bunting

And as of last evening, the Snow Bunting has still been reported to be around! We're glad he's having a little fun in the sun here in Georgia. Having lived in Florida, we are quite familiar with the snow birds coming down south to enjoy the beaches - both of the avian and human variety ;-)


  1. Awesome! I totally missed the Snow Buntings when I was in New Hampshire this last December; I guess I should've gone to Georgia. NOthing makes you feel settled in like developing some good birding patches.

  2. So very true! Which is why it's taken us thing long to unpack...