Snow buntings are cool. There are a very few birds that seem to come through at the hinge of the seasons, when one time of year fizzles out and another starts to flame. Snow buntings are one of those. I suppose if their name was "lily buntings," I wouldn't feel the same way. But they skitter across the roads and fields like the first flakes of snow, whirl in their little flocks like a bit of a blizzard.
I've been seeing them for about a week. Summer was so dry here, and the fall so far so wet, things are weird phenologically. But it feels like about the right time for the snow buntings.
Snow buntings are notorious unsavvy in terms of cars and people. In fact, I think I killed one a few days back as a little flock rose from Highway 61 as I was driving into Two Harbors. I don't ever like killing a bird like that, but it's a testimony to their wildness. They must breed somewhere north and wild...apparently they are tundra birds, which makes sense because they seem to prefer open fields and...unfortunately...roads.
So, as the tamaracks burn out summer with their autumn gold, the snow buntings flutter down in with the first flakes of winter.