Driving from Ely to the North Shore yesterday, I was stunned and thrilled by the flocks of snow buntings rising from the road as we passed. Photos were simply impossible, since we were going at least 60 mph and the birds popped up without warning. But the beauty of the flock in flight, the flashing of dozens of white wings, called out for something, somehow, to capture it.
Maybe some snow bunting simile?
Half-burnt aspen leaves, caught in the updraft, rise and dance from the burn pile.
Snowflakes scatter from the road, up and out and away, only there is no snowstorm.
Snow buntings, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, are migratory birds for whom Minnesota is “south.” They nest in the high Arctic. There, the males arrive weeks ahead of the females, in the long long sunrise of the Arctic spring. Prime nesting sites are deep in rock crevices, which the males line with their own feathers. The birds we see here are scrubby brown and white, with dramatic flashes of bright white when they fly. The males rub off that winter plumage to line their nests and to reveal their summer plumage of all black and all white.
The best photo of snow buntings in flight I could find online comes from the website of Donald and Lillian Stokes. Check it out!
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