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GO WILDWITH ERIC PAYLOR.

ONE of Teesside's delightful winter visitors that you could bump into anywhere is the snow bunting.

My sister-in-law receives a regular daily visit from a snow bunting to her garden feeders.

Individuals are unusual, however, because snow buntings do tend to stick together in small groups.

However I almost stood on one individual a couple of years ago when walking in thick mist on the top of Highcliffe Nab at Guisborough.

Snow buntings usual breed in the Arctic Circle and so they are more afraid of polar bears than they are of humans.

So, on occasions, you can get quite close to them. This fine photo of a snow bunting was taken by John Money at Redcar.

Snow buntings are attractive birds in winter, with a sandy buff wash to their white plumage, though in summer the males are particularly spectacular with all-white heads and underparts contrasting with their black wings.

There is a small breeding population of snow buntings in the Scottish Highlands, but otherwise they are birds you will encounter only in the winter months.

They eat seeds and insects and more often than not are spotted in small flocks on our beaches, occasionally swapping North Gare for South Gare, and vice versa.

A couple of local merlins have grasped the fact that we receive visits from snow buntings every year and the visitors are often harassed - and occasionally caught and eaten - by these small raptors.

Those snow buntings visiting Teesside have also been joined by a few of their rarer cousins, the Lapland buntings.

These buntings, which are fractionally smaller than snow buntings, also breed in the Arctic Circle and spend winter with us, often in the company of snow bunting flocks.

They have a lot more brown on their backs and are more similar to the familiar reed buntings in winter, but have plainer reddish buff faces and a rich brown panel on their wings.

Late last winter I watched three Lapland buntings in the stubble in the large field between Redcar and Marske.

This winter I stood just a few feet away from a pair of Lapland buntings on The Green at Seaton Carew. These birds had probably just flown in and were busy satisfying their hunger.

| If you have noted any interesting or unusual wildlife sightings in and around Teesside and Cleveland lately, contact Eric on eric.paylor@gmail.com

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 3, 2018
Words:396
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