Friday, 12 March 2010

Baited Buntings

Snow Bunting at bait, north Norfolk

Snow Buntings are a classic winter bird in north Norfolk, their flocks are often described as looking like a flurry of snow flakes as they take flight. Normally you would need to walk some of the quieter stretches of coastline to find a flock [Holme has been good this winter]. However at Salthouse the birds come to seed, I believe that this was originally put down by ringers so that they could catch and ring birds as part of a scientific study. I'm less clear as to who feeds them these days, certainly this afternoon a couple of photographers looked as if they had been putting out some millet.

You would think that this might be considered a harmless, even beneficial activity by all birdwatchers, however some concerns have been raised that not only are the Snow Buntings being fed but that local birds of prey will also notice the concentration of prey items in this one spot and that this will lead to increased predation of wintering Snow Buntings. As far as I am aware this has not happened and the Snow Buntings have become something of an attraction in their own right.

I managed half an hour with these lovely little birds today under a cloudy grey sky with low light and so didn't manage any amazing shots, nonetheless it was a fun experience and I'll see if I can get back before the Snow Buntings disappear in the spring.

I wonder what other birds it would be appropriate to bait in like this, there are plenty of traditional peanut feeders hanging up around nature reserves and gardens along the coast to attract Blue Tits, Greenfinches etc, what else could we responsibly bait in, Water Rails with fish, Bearded Tits at Grit trays?

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