Snow Buntings are back on Pendle Hill, seen here in the shadows of the Downham Slope.

Martin Garner wrote in his Birding Frontiers Challenge Series Winter 'It's like having the Arctic Wilderness arrive on your doorstep'. That's exactly how I feel about Snow Buntings. I've been lucky to see them on their breeding grounds in both Iceland and Svalbard this summer and here they are back again in East Lancashire for the winter. A couple of Snow Buntings had been seen on Pendle on Friday and I couldn't resist a (now only occasional) hike up the hill today. After some searching of their favourite haunts on the hill I heard one call over the big end, this was followed by a second a few moments later. Not long afterwards I was delighted to stumble on a small flock of eight birds feeding grass seeds along one of the paths above the Downham slope. They were typically very shy and difficult to approach, feeding on the icy cold north slope, which does not see the sun by this time in winter. Northerly winds recently have probably aided their return to Pendle after an almost blank winter last year with only a couple of birds and I found quite a few droppings here and there suggesting they have been around for a while already. As explained in Martin Garner's book, the Pendle birds identified to race so far have been nivalis and are therefore continental European breeding birds but, wherever they are from, Snow Buntings are very uncommon away from the coast making the small numbers we get on Pendle very special. Also on Pendle today were golden plover (8), plenty of Red Grouse calling now and a woodcock in the car headlights standing in the middle of the road below the big end before first light.