Arctic Birds, Large and Small

The Arctic weather in Central New York this month has led me to “go with the flow” when searching for nature photographs. Why not hunt for Arctic wildlife when frigid, windy conditions drive everything else to cover?!  And so I did. My subjects were Snowy Owls and Snow Buntings, birds that summer on the Arctic tundra of the far north and typically winter in Canada and northern U.S. I talked briefly about Snow Buntings in a post last February (“Winter Birds – Northern Visitors” 2/7/13) and Snowy Owls in two recent posts (“A Rare Northern Beauty” 12/20/13 and “A Snowy Christmas Eve” 12/24/13). However, I am mesmerized by these charming winter visitors and their amazing adaptations to harsh winter conditions – and must continue to post my experiences with them!


A flock of over 100 Snow Buntings flying in a synchronized, undulating wave over an open, weedy field


Part of a small flock of Snow Buntings that was foraging roadside, a common occurrence


Snow Buntings feeding on weed seeds in an open, windswept field


An unusual sighting: a solitary Snow Bunting foraging alone; typical of the species, it was walking, rather than flying, from one plant to another


Snowy Owl on a utility pole surrounded by open, windswept farmland; a favorite perch for hunting and resting


The low flight behavior and cryptic coloration characteristic of Snowy Owls


Snowy Owl canvassing a field of corn stubble for prey, possibly a Meadow Vole

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

13 thoughts on “Arctic Birds, Large and Small

    • Thanks Donna. I’m surprised you haven’t seen buntings from your jeep blind. They are fairly common here but also seem to follow a pattern of “here today, gone tomorrow”, even in good habitat. I usually see them while searching farmland for photo ops via secondary roads and seem to have better luck when the weather is harsh. Oftentimes a flock will announce their presence by bursting into flight from a roadside feeding site. Last year I made several trips to watch a mixed flock of about 150 birds that included buntings, redpolls, tree sparrows, and some unidentified flying objects! Fun.

      • I’ve only had a couple of opportunities to photograph Snow Buntings. Once, just a single Snow Bunting on a gravel drive. Once, a flock of Snow Buntings on the beach at the ocean, at a distance. I’d love to see more of your photos. They are such beautiful creatures.

  1. Thanks, Nick. I hadn’t seen the photos of the snowy owl in flight. Also, I like the snow bunting photos—but most of all like your blog “header” of snowy owl. Nice job.

  2. Wow, the Snowy Buntings are a delight…I have never seen one before now. Your photo was so inclusive of the many shapes and stages of flight…I couldn’t help but think of how closely some resemble fish flying through the air…like an Echer drawing

    • Thanks Saunda! Yes, the birds with their wings folded actually look fishy and the flock as a whole resembles a school of fish! I love this description from “Snowbird Season” by Marie Read In “Living Bird” magazine: The massed buntings seem to roll along like an ocean wave as those at the rear fly forward and land ahead of the frontrunners”.

  3. Nick, these are all wonderful! I especially like the close-up of the oil tray snow bunting, and all of the snowy owl photos. I admire your stamina, or fortitude, or whatever it is that enticed you outdoors (so you coukd share your photos with) us in this frigid frigid winter!

  4. Your photos are a delight; the snow visually as a white backdrop, but also how it shows up the superb coloration and the adaptations of the birds. What a winter you’re having with those extreme temperatures!

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