The Snow Bunting was one of my top priority birds to photograph. I had only seen this species once before. There was one reported a few years ago at the summit of Reddish Knob. Walt Childs and I went to look for it then, and just before the last turn on the road to the summit, the Snow Bunting flew across the road right in front of the car, and we could not re-locate it. Of my 619 photo/visual avian life birds, I had taken photos of all of them except for 13 species. About half of them were species I had seen in other countries, and have little hope of going to see them again, but I really want to get photos of all the North American species I have seen, and Snow Bunting was near the top of the list.
I have had a couple of opportunities to see another Snow Bunting since then, when a Snow Bunting had been reported at the farthest jetty off the beach at Grandview Nature Preserve near Hampton, Virginia. The first time I was there, the air temperature was 10 degrees with a 25 mile per hour wind blowing from the ocean. The jetties there are a 4 to 5 mile hike on the sandy beach each way, and after about a mile, I was too cold to continue the long hike. The second time I was there, the temperature was a lot better, but after hiking about half way to the jetties and not seeing any birds at all while I was there, I decided to return to my car.
A few days ago, a Snow Bunting was reported with a flock of Horned Larks along Strickley Road in Augusta County. This is one of my usual birding stops when heading out in that area, so I asked Walt if he wanted to go with me and look for it. When we arrived, there was a flock of about 30 to 40 American Pipits that soon took flight, and perhaps 100 Horned Larks. The Horned Larks stayed far from the road most of the time, took flight very few minutes only to circle and land somewhere else along the road, often dropped down in small depressions or stayed behing tall grasses, and rarely congregated in a close knit group, making search for the Snow Bunting a challenge. Each time the flock took flight and landed, we had to re-start the search for the Snow Bunting.
And then we got lucky. Walt spotted the Snow Bunting through his spotting scope, and pointed in the direction where he saw it. I saw a few small birds in that direction, and took lots of photos, hoping to catch the Snow Bunting in some of the photos.
Snow Bunting and Horned Lark
Snow Bunting and Horned Larks
From there, we drove around some of our usual birding routes along country roads in Augusta County, looking for raptors.
Female American Kestrel
Male American Kestrel