Winter is coming

151101 Snow Buntings Skaw WhalsayWhile there may yet be a rare bird or two to come to Shetland in the dying gasps of autumn migration, the view from the kitchen window is increasingly wintery in recent days. Great Northern Divers are gradually massing in the bay to the north of the house, leaves on the small trees in the garden are but a memory, and there’s now a small flock of Snow Buntings drifting around my fields like a localised and musical blizzard.

There are a few birds that, en masse, have particularly evocative calls at this time of year. I love the needle-thin calls of Goldcrests moving through conifers; the trilling of Waxwings settling on rosehips is always a thrill; and then there’s the lyrical chattering of a flurry of Snow Buntings in flight.

These ones are newly arrived, and haven’t really settled down yet – they’re skittish and unapproachable, lifting off and flying a short distance whenever a sheep, a pony or a photographer gets anywhere near them. I’d love to have a close portrait to show you… but perhaps a small vignette of the flock in flight is more evocative. The flashing of their white feathers stands out a mile across the fields.

We may not get snow here in Shetland this winter. But we’ve had Snow Buntings, and that’ll do for me.

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