February 20th – Family Day

Two aging birds: the chickadee was banded in 2014 and Marnie was celebrating her 29th birthday today.

Two aging birds: the chickadee was banded in 2014 and Marnie was celebrating her 29th birthday today.


What a great holiday this is: a day off so families can just get together and do stuff without having to spend a lot of money on presents. Ruthven was really busy today with bird banding and a very interesting (and interactive) presentation on snakes. This format attracted people in droves. Some dropped into the banding lab by coincidence and out of simple curiousity while others were old friends and knew what they “were getting into”.

On the day we handled 71 birds: 40 new banded ones and 31 retraps. We also “handled” 78 visitors in some capacity. And, of course, the weather couldn’t have been nicer (unless you’re a Snow Bunting aficionado) – fairly warm (+6) and sunny. Many people asked me If I had seen any early migrants yet….. Just Red-winged Blackbirds I’m afraid (although Carol had a Common Grackle in her backyard in Caledonia). At this rate Killdeer should be here any time.
Banded 40:
2 Downy Woodpeckers
1 Tufted Titmouse
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 House Finches
31 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 18 spp.
Photo Gallery:

McMaster student Aranya with her first banded bird - an American Goldfinch.

McMaster student Aranya with her first banded bird – an American Goldfinch.


This chickadee is at least 2 and a half years old.

This chickadee is at least 2 and a half years old.


Anna proudly holds the first bird she helped band: an American Goldfinch.  -S. Merritt

Anna proudly holds the first bird she helped band: an American Goldfinch. -S. Merritt


One of 3 Tufted Titmice encountered today - they have become a fixture of Ruthven's avifauna over the years.

One of 3 Tufted Titmice encountered today – they have become a fixture of Ruthven’s avifauna over the years.


Anna (left) is a keener. Behind her and her sister (Priestley) is her science project on Bird Migration and Banding.  -L. Oldfield

Anna (left) is a keener. Behind her and her sister (Priestley) is her science project on Bird Migration and Banding. -L. Oldfield


Here's a close-up of Anna's science project: "Bird Migration and Banding". Not bad for a 5-year old, eh?     -L. Oldfield

Here’s a close-up of Anna’s science project: “Bird Migration and Banding”. Not bad for a 5-year old, eh? -L. Oldfield


Tail feather detail of an ASY female goldfinch. Note the pronounced white patches and the very rounded central rectrices.   -S. Merritt

Tail feather detail of an ASY female goldfinch. Note the pronounced white patches and the very rounded central rectrices. -S. Merritt


Team work: Tessa, Marnie and Aranya.   -S. Merritt

Team work: Tessa, Marnie and Aranya. -S. Merritt


Male Downy Woodpecker.  -S. Merritt

Male Downy Woodpecker. -S. Merritt


Marnie showing off a .......you guessed it: a Goldfinch.   -S. Merritt

Marnie showing off a …….you guessed it: a Goldfinch. -S. Merritt


Sue Merritt’s Bird-in-the-hand Series:
The joy of a bird in the hand here is almost palpable. Aranya with her Goldfinch.   -S. Merritt

The joy of a bird in the hand here is almost palpable. Aranya with her Goldfinch. -S. Merritt


Anna with her Goldfinch.   -S. Merritt

Anna with her Goldfinch. -S. Merritt


Laura with her Goldfinch (good thing we got so many goldfinches!).   -S. Merritt

Laura with her Goldfinch (good thing we got so many goldfinches!). -S. Merritt


And for a change.....a House Finch. (The joy is the same.)  -S. Merritt

And for a change…..a House Finch. (The joy is the same.) -S. Merritt


Getting it right.   -S. Merritt

Getting it right. -S. Merritt


Learning to hold a Downy Woodpecker.   -S. Merritt

Learning to hold a Downy Woodpecker. -S. Merritt


Releasing a House Finch.   -S. Merritt

Releasing a House Finch. -S. Merritt

Rick

February (March?) 19th – Heat Wave

Old ice in an eddy is all that remains of the ice cover at the end of January. Now the Grand River is wide open between Caledonia and Cayuga.

Old ice in an eddy is all that remains of the ice cover at the end of January. Now the Grand River is wide open between Caledonia and Cayuga.


It’s hard to know what’s going on! Yesterday we had a high of +15 C. and today it’s over 13 C. According to Environment Canada’s weather network these temperatures should be new records for the Hamilton area. The old one for February 18th was 9.7 C. (in 1981) and 12 C. for today (in 1984). And all the snow is gone ( you have to feel envious of all those folks out east who have had 4 dumps of it over 10 days – now that is Snow Bunting weather!

I went for a couple of walks today and listened to Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, House Finches and Black-capped Chickadees singing, setting up territorial boundaries. And along the river many of the Canada Geese have paired off and some looked as though they were scoping out and holding down nesting sites. Several Red-winged Blackbirds went by, all heading north. And although I’ve yet to see one (much to my wife’s enjoyment – she has seen one…yesterday), there are a number of local reports of Turkey Vultures on the move.

I’ve been carrying the Snow Bunting traps around in my car for the past 2 weeks waiting for a change in the weather but I think it’s time to face it: Snow Bunting season (down here, at least) is over. I’ll unload the traps tomorrow at Ruthven when I open the feeder nets to see what we can band on Family Day.
Rick

February 18th – Let Their Lights Shine!

Elise

Elise


Elliot

Elliot


Teal

Teal


It wasn’t until I learned of the birth of Teal, Teegan’s daughter, at the beginning of February that the thought hit me: it’s sort of like gnus on the African savannah all dropping their calves at the same time to confuse and overwhelm predators. Within the space of about 3 months, three lovely women had given birth to their first child: Christine to Elliot, Rhiannon to Elise, and Teegan to Teal. Marvellous!

“Big deal” I hear you say…..children are being born all the time around the world. But….all three of these women had been integrally involved around 12 years ago with the banding program at Ruthven and all had gone on to attain post-graduate degrees in biology/ornithology. Just a coincidence? Hmmm….. Initially I was thinking that perhaps they might have picked up some sort of virus at the banding lab that then lay dormant for many years just waiting for the right conditions to come along. Naw….no matter how I work it around it’s just coincidence. But what a wonderful thing that these infants are being born into households with such bright, kind, insightful and enthusiastic parents.

Now here’s what really gets to me: these are wonderful young women in so many ways but in some cultures around the world (and even within certain cultural/religious circles in this country) these women would be just chattel bound to do their husbands’ bidding. Their brilliance would never have been allowed to shine. Their contribution would have been solely begetting children and taking care of all the menial tasks that many men deign to be beneath them. They would be just grist for the mill, ground down by mindless work into oblivion. What a waste that would have been! And just think about how many women are alive today whose lights will never shine. A tragedy…..and the World is a lesser place for it.
Rick

February 15th – Dreams Come True

AFter a couple of years of lobbying, Lise Balthazar realizes her dream - holding the first Snow Bunting banded at her place.   -N. Capitanio

AFter a couple of years of lobbying, Lise Balthazar realizes her dream – holding the first Snow Bunting banded at her place. -N. Capitanio


On the weekend I travelled up to Lanark County to try and catch Lise Balthazar’s SNBU’s. Ever since the first X-country SNBU Checkup was posted on this blog, she has been after me to try and find a bander to mark them. It has been her dream. She has lots of snow and a good crop of buntings that she has maintained year after year with multiple feeders but it was difficult to catch any on the Saturday for a number of reasons: a) she has 17 feeders AND she puts out feed for the deer and turkeys so the buntings would go to the other seed sources rather than chance the traps. Prior to coming I had suggested that she concentrate the feed into 5 distinct piles (I was bringing 5 traps) and she did but there was so much “residue” that the birds were avoiding the trap area. b) the habitat consists of trees and shrubs surrounding a small open area plus the house and out buildings. I’ve found that in these situations the flocks are really “flighty” – like shorebirds actually. They fly in and drop on the food, peck away quickly getting as much as they can, and then fly up within seconds of alighting. I’ve seen this in a number of areas with similar habitats. The reason I think is that the buntings are very wary of avian predators that can use the trees/shrubs/buildings as screens to approach within easy striking distance of the Snow Buntings. In wide-open habitats, like our Duxbury Road banding site near Hagersville, the birds are much more “relaxed” and will take the time necessary to check out the traps and then go after the food. They can see danger coming a long way off. c) Lise feeds deer with a corn/oats/barley mixture (“COB”)that she puts out in 3 large plastic basins – right in the middle of the best (i.e., most open) SNBU catching area. Although the birds seem somewhat habituated to the deer, the deer’s movements (and there can be up to 20+ of them) keep the birds on edge…..and “flighty”.
Just a small sample of Lise's menagerie.   -N. Capitanio

Just a small sample of Lise’s menagerie. -N. Capitanio


Sunday was a different story: a day-long blizzard started early in the morning and quickly (and effectively) covered all other food sources on the ground so that the food in the traps was the only thing available – we had to keep uncovering the bait inside the traps to keep it visible. Plus Lise did not put out the 3 plastic basins for the deer. The result was that the hungry birds had to negotiate the traps in order to feed and very quickly found their way into them (once we had scared off a Northern Shrike that was on the top of a trap as soon as we had caught the first one).
Catherine banding her first Snow Bunting.   -N. Capitanio

Catherine banding her first Snow Bunting. -N. Capitanio


In 3 1/2 hours we caught and banded 89 birds!! The age/sex mix was interesting: 87 were males – 39 SY, 48 ASY. The 2 females were 1 ASY and 1 SY.

I was joined in this effort by a young student from the Montreal area, Catherine Lavallee-Chouinard. She came with some prior banding experience at Thunder Cape. She was both enthusiastic and, learning quickly, effective. She banded about half of the birds.

Catherine Lavallee-Chouinard braving the blizzard to bring in a haul.   -N. Capitanio

Catherine Lavallee-Chouinard braving the blizzard to bring in a haul. -N. Capitanio


Catherine banding her first Snow Bunting.   -N. Capitanio

Catherine banding her first Snow Bunting. -N. Capitanio


The release of a bright male.   -N. Capitanio

The release of a bright male. -N. Capitanio


Lise with another haul (we moved the banding operation into the kitchen to keep warm - the birds, however, were kept out on the porch so they wouldn't overheat).  -N. Capitanio

Lise with another haul (we moved the banding operation into the kitchen to keep warm – the birds, however, were kept out on the porch so they wouldn’t overheat). -N. Capitanio


Snow Buntings awaiting processing.   -N. Capitanio

Snow Buntings awaiting processing. -N. Capitanio


Enthusiastic students are a treat to teach.    -N. Capitanio

Enthusiastic students are a treat to teach. -N. Capitanio


Wing detail of a SY male Snow Bunting.   -N. Capitanio

Wing detail of a SY male Snow Bunting. -N. Capitanio


A good scribe is hard to find - Marg doing the honours with Catherine in Lise's kitchen.......I was probably eating muffins by this point.    -N. Capitanio

A good scribe is hard to find – Marg doing the honours with Catherine in Lise’s kitchen…….I was probably eating muffins by this point. -N. Capitanio


The big flock of (mostly) male Snow Buntings hungrily attacks the piles of millet on Monday morning after the blizzard.   -N. Capitanio

The big flock of (mostly) male Snow Buntings hungrily attacks the piles of millet on Monday morning after the blizzard. -N. Capitanio

Just prior to driving up to Lanark I checked out our banding site on Duxbury Road just outside Hagersville. There was barely any snow on the ground. Doug Ward, a Hamilton Photography Club member came out to try his luck and Nancy was able to chase up the remnants of our Snow Bunting flock as well as a few Horned Larks:

Snow flurry.    -D. Ward

Snow flurry. -D. Ward


A flock of (mostly) female Snow Buntings.   -D. Ward

A flock of (mostly) female Snow Buntings. -D. Ward


Often mixed in with Snow Buntings, Horned Larks are always a treat. They begin to move through the area in good numbers in Mid-February.   -D. Ward

Often mixed in with Snow Buntings, Horned Larks are always a treat. They begin to move through the area in good numbers in Mid-February. -D. Ward


- D. Ward

– D. Ward


As you can see, there's barely any snow left on the ground.    -D. Ward

As you can see, there’s barely any snow left on the ground. -D. Ward

And out near Camp Morton in Manitoba Bill Maciejko finally was able to get some help with his flock: Emily MacKinnon.

Emily MacKinnon with a SY-male.....in Manitoba!   -B. Maciejko

Emily MacKinnon with a SY-male…..in Manitoba! -B. Maciejko

Unless there’s a drastic change in the weather in southern Ontario – snow and freezing temperatures – I’m afraid that our Snow Bunting season will be over. The birds will be shifting northward toward their breeding ground, getting ready for the big push in a month or so.
Rick

January 30th – X-Country (SNBU) Checkup

Males in flight.   -B. Maciejko

Males in flight. -B. Maciejko


This topsy turvy Winter (in southern Ontario at least) seems to be swinging back to real Winter – Nancy Furber (see her report below) was able to band another 40+ SNBU’s on Saturday after a 2-week hiatus. But looking at the reports from across the country it seems that most of the action was around Quebec City where Benoit Gendreau banded a whack of them and…..he got 3 foreign retraps!! See his reports below. You could just sense his excitement (and enthusiasm)! He’s been able to locate the origins of 2 of them but we need help with the 3rd one:
Brilliant ASY male.  -A. Clavette

Brilliant ASY male. -A. Clavette


- A. Clavette

– A. Clavette


Hi all,
Not sure whether you have all seen this on Facebook, but we are curious to find the bander of SNBU band # 2661 – 90046, recaptured near Quebec city on the 27th by Benoît.
Let us know if this bird is one of yours!
Thanks.
Marie-Pier LaPlante
UQAR, Rimouski, QC

Yukon, NWT, NU

[NO REPORTS]

Prairie Provinces

A lone female, bottom front.   -B. Maciejko

A lone female, bottom front. -B. Maciejko


January 22, 2017
Hi Rick,
Sorry I missed the Check-up call. Had a crazy exhausting week for all kinds of reasons. I’m just taking a break from moving large piles of melting snow, pulled earlier from my roof, away from the foundation.
We’ve gone from a two week string of sub-arctic weather, with highs in the -20’s along with snow and strong winds, to several days of above zero temps, including over night for the past two. Snow cover has shrunk by over 12-16 inches, but still well over a foot of cover even in the open. That cover is now mush which collapses with a splushy splash when walked through.

During the cold spell the Snow Bunting flock held at 150-200, with nearly 300 once just after a blizzard. Since the warm-up began those numbers dropped to 60-100, with a flock of 70 all through yesterday (21st).

The Snow Buntings become active quite early and I usually hear flight calls and calls from birds in the woods well before first light. This morning started with dead calm and fog and a temperature of plus 1. A few twittering calls were heard at sunrise (the only twitter I want to hear about by now), but only one Snow Bunting was seen at the bait. It’s now just after 10a.m. and I’ve seen or heard nothing else from them.

I’m attempting to attach a few photos which you can use, or not, at your discretion. If ever something in particular strikes your fancy on my facebook page, just ask and I’ll try to send you a copy. (The one with the “buried” birds was taken an hour after a blizzard had ended, at -24C in a strong NW wind.)

All the best,
Bill Maciejko
Camp Morton, MB

Breasting the storm.   -A. Clavette

Breasting the storm. -A. Clavette

January 27, 2017
Hi Rick,
Its been cooler this week and Snow Buntings have returned, but in smaller numbers. I’ve been on the lumber truck most of the week but had counts of 20-50 first thing in the morning all week. I got home early on Tuesday and was greeted by about 125 on the bait field. I’ll have a better idea of what’s going this weekend.
What we really need now is more snow. The melt exposed all the scattered wind blown seed from earlier in the winter. The existing snow cover (12-16 inches) has frozen into one solid mass, making it impossible to cover the seed extraneous to the bait piles.
I heard you’re getting more snow and rain out your way. Hope yours is the solid white stuff.

All the best,
Bill Maciejko

Buntings on bait.   -B Maciejko

Buntings on bait. -B Maciejko


- B. Maciejko

– B. Maciejko

January 29, 2017
Hi Rick,

Attached are three photos taken at as Snow Buntings dug in to escape strong northerly winds 1430h, January 12, 2017. The winds were even stronger through the morning, with visibility often less than 400 feet in blowing snow. Temp was -21.5C at 0800h, which did nothing to prevent over 200 of these “bad-weather birds” coming to feed. The temp had fallen to -23.8C and about 150 were present when the photos were taken.

Hunkering down in the wind.   -B. Maciejko

Hunkering down in the wind. -B. Maciejko


-B. Maciejko

-B. Maciejko


Dug in - check out how some of these birds have worked themselves right down into the snow.  -B. Maciejko

Dug in – check out how some of these birds have worked themselves right down into the snow. -B. Maciejko


Its now 1145h, Sunday the 29th and I still haven’t seen more than 60 at a time coming to bait; but at least they’re fairly consistent. If there’s a sudden increase coming for the late day feed, I’ll send another email tonight. Otherwise, with my earlier emails, that’s my update for the week.

Forecast is for snow beginning tonight/tomorrow and a return to our normal winter highs of about -18C, so things should improve for Emily, her crew and myself to do some banding towards the end of next week.

All the best,
Bill Maciejko
Camp Morton, MB

January 29, 2017
Hi Rick,
Sunday’s late feeding flock topped 100, est 125 but only in and out for several quick, frantic bouts at the bait between 1650h-1720h.
I managed one grainy distant burst of the flock in flight and can confirm at least one female, and five, maybe 7, SY males flying with the old guys.

All the best,
Bill Maciejko
Camp Morton, MB

Ontario

January 24, 2017
Hi Rick,
Our Kern’s site really didn’t get much of a start. Our Flock was never more than about 100. Now we have nothing. Other people in the area that monitor flocks had around 400 snbu, and now they are down to very few.
Super warm temps here between +4 and – 4 most days

Joanne Goddard
Kerns Public School
New Liskeard, ON

January 24, 2017
Good morning Rick,
The forecast was calling for more snow today but right now we’re getting freezing rain……the last thing we need because the ground is already very icy. My husband slipped on the ice last week and cracked a rib.
So bring very good spikes for your boots!
Hopefully this rain will turn to snow and lots of it in the next couple of days.
The Buntings are still around!

Lise Balthazar
Lanark, ON

[Later the same day]
Hi Rick,
The rain has finally changed to snow and it’s definitely colder.
I am sending a picture I took a few minutes ago of the Snow Buntings eating from piles of seed. There’s about 1 foot between the piles. Is that enough space?
Also, I feed the Buntings in 2 different spots. The picture enclosed shows the spot in the driveway which is just a few steps from the front door and very easy to watch from the kitchen window. I think this is the ideal spot for trapping and banding.
The other spot is further away, at the back of the house, where I feed the deer. On the picture VIEW AT THE BACK which I took from the sliding doors, you can see the feeding spot through the trees, past my husband’s studio, near a fence.
Lise

Supper time!   -L. Balthazar

Supper time! -L. Balthazar


Eating from discrete piles....getting ready for trapping.   -L. Balthazar

Eating from discrete piles….getting ready for trapping. -L. Balthazar


The backyard at dusk - cleaning up the bait.   -L. Balthazar

The backyard at dusk – cleaning up the bait. -L. Balthazar


When you watch with regularity you never know what you might see.  -L. Balthazar

When you watch with regularity you never know what you might see. -L. Balthazar

January 24, 2017
No Snow Buntings here in King City . There is no snow, just mud.
Regards
Glenn Reed and Theresa Mckenzie
King City, ON

January 23, 2017
[Hi Rick]
Nothing since the 13th [January] .. not even a whisper of Buntings anywhere in my area.
Absolutely nothing .. gives me time to work on my renovations …. exactly 248 Snow Buntings [banded in January] and no other species … quite depressing … nothing since the 13th … we have virtually no snow here and temperatures above freezing most days .. absolutely the worst possible conditions for Snow Buntings.
David Lamble
Fergus, ON

January 25, 2017
Hi Rick
We had a lot of snow which pushed the buntings out of this area but it has pretty much melted now. Fairly large numbers have returned from further south but they are never in the same place twice.
Cindy Cartwright
Bruce Peninsula, ON

January 24, 2017
Rick,
Snow all gone and the buntings went with it !
Spring arrived early .

Bob Hall-Brooks
Windsor area, ON

January 27, 2017
Snow Buntings have returned to Fallsview Road (or maybe they are just more visible in the snow). The flock is about 30 – 40.
Fallsview is west of Sydenham above Dundas.
Alexander (Sandy) L. Darling
Dundas, ON

January 29th, 2017
The weather since Rick and I last banded on January 10th has been warm
with days of rain. No snow bunting activity at the bait site until
January 27th. On the 27th, a light snowfall overnight and cold
temperatures brought the return of winter weather. Yesterday morning
(28th), I set corn out at the bait site and when I returned later in the
afternoon, I observed a flock of ~50 Snow Buntings feeding. The birds
were back!
On January 29th, I arrived at the site, and a flock of ~60 Snow Buntings
were waiting for me. Even though there wasn’t much of a snow cover, I set
traps and waited. At first, the flock was up and down but within a short
time they had settled and were going into the traps. A steady stream of
buntings around the site this morning. The flock size had dwindled, but
it never stopped. There were always birds feeding. After two and half
hours, I handled 45 birds, banding 43 Snow Buntings (plus one retrap) and 1 Lapland
Longspur.

Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park Banding Station
Cayuga, ON

Quebec

Sharing a moment in the Buntingmobile.   -M-P. LaPlante

Sharing a moment in the Buntingmobile. -M-P. LaPlante


A nice flock at Marie-Pier's banding site.    -M-P. LaPlante

A nice flock at Marie-Pier’s banding site. -M-P. LaPlante

January 24, 2107
Hi Rick!
We had some cold weather and much snow the weeks following Christmas and I managed to band 70 birds in 2 mornings out. Starting not too long after, we had almost a week of super warm temperatures and the birds left. I hope tommorow’s snow forecast will bring them back!
In the birds I banded, 2 were recaptures of birds from last year. (Actually, the very last bird I banded last year in March was one of the first one to be captured this year!)
(photos attached of 2 friends of mine with this guy and a photo of the site).
Marie-Pier LaPlante
Rimouski, QC

-A. Clavette

-A. Clavette


January 22, 2017
Hi Rick,
SNBU still around Berthier-sur-Mer. Between 100 and 300 birds are feeding daily at my baiting spot.
I only have time to band last friday and today… Something interesting today, I have got my first recap from a other station.
The recap number: 2691-79675 [Banded by Simon Duvall in the Montreal area last year.]
Total for the year: 56 SNBU
à bientôt,
Benoit Gendreau
Berthier-sur-Mer

Benoit with the 3rd(!) retrap just this week.   -B. Gendreau

Benoit with the 3rd(!) retrap just this week. -B. Gendreau

January 24, 2017
Hi Rick,
Station location: Repère placé
à proximité de 53-155 Boulevard Blais E, Berthier-sur-Mer, QC G0R 1E0
https://goo.gl/maps/Tf8wAoZVSe82
Many SNBU before snow storm.
Total: 110 SNBU, 1lalo, 1 recap

À bientôt,
Benoit Gendreau
418-241-3442
Www.migrationdesoies.ca

Benoit's trapping site and trap setup.   -B. Gendreau

Benoit’s trapping site and trap setup. -B. Gendreau

January 26, 2017
Hi Rick!
I’m lucky this year. Again a recap: 2691-53410.
I’ll post something on the CSBN Facebook Page.
Total: 161 SNBU, 1 LALO, 2 recap

À bientôt,
Benoit Gendreau
Berthier-sur-Mer, QC

January 26, 2017
Hi,
First recap: This bird was originally banded as a SY male on January 6th 2015 in St-Roch de l’Achigan, QC. This is Simon Duval’s site, near Montreal.
I don’t have time for picture…
I did 50 birds this morning in one hour and half. A shrike ended rapidly the Banding session.
Bonne journée,
Benoit Gendreau

[And a little later…]
Recap this morning: Ça c’est un des miens! (Marie-Pier) Bagué le 7 janvier à Ste -Luce cette année! Wow, belle recapture!
Marie-pier have banded the Bird 2,5 week at st Luce.
[A distance of about 270 km between the two sites.]
C’est motivant 😉
Benoit Gendreau

January 27, 2017
Héhé!
Again à recap for me this morning on only 17 birds!
Band number: 2661-90046
Total: 178 SNBU, 1 LALO, 3 recap
À bientôt,
Benoit Gendreau

January 24, 2017
Hi,
Pretty much the same near Sorel, PQ. The snow cover is thin, icy and crusty. I have not seen a SNBU since the end of December.
Dominique Dufault
Sorel, QC

January 24, 2017
Hi Rick,
Idem here in southern Quebec…no snow no buntings.

Carl Bromwich
QC

Maritime Provinces

Male taking stock.   -A. Clavette

Male taking stock. -A. Clavette


Sow bathing?    -A; Clavette

Sow bathing? -A; Clavette


January 24, 2017
Hello from Dorothy in Central NB near Stanley,
There is a lot of snow here, but the temperatures are much milder than usual, resulting in a couple of very hard crusts, and ice. There are about 50 SNBU at the farm where I used to band (down from a 100-150) but they are competing with both a large flock of starlings and dozens of Blue Jays for food the farmer scatters about. I can’t catch them in wire traps as I used to. The starlings, and particularly the Blue Jays simply love going into the trap and of course nothing bad happens to them, so they just keep on going in. Earlier in the winter I saw small flocks of SNBU along the St. John River south of Fredericton feeding on plowed areas where market gardeners tilled the soil in fall. That’s it for me.
Dorothy
Stanley, NB

January 24, 2017
Rick, not seen mine either here in Stewiacke NS.. I was afraid something massive had happen to my flock that we have fed for the last three years. If they are not in Ontario, then the odds of them making it here this year would be quite low I assume?

Barb McLaughlin
Stewiacke, NS

Newfoundland & Labrador

[NO REPORTS]

>U.S.A.

[NO REPORTS]

January 26th – Dealing With Limbo

There is a large contingent of Black-capped Chickadees around both the Burlington and Oakville campuses - most of which are now banded.

There is a large contingent of Black-capped Chickadees around both the Burlington and Oakville campuses – most of which are now banded.


Now I don’t have the facts right at my fingertips (and I don’t want to sound too much like a geezer….you know: “when I was a boy”, and all that) but I can’t remember a January like this. So much like the middle of March. And it certainly has fouled up my plans. Usually I’m off to some challenging, warmer climes through this period but I thought I’d stay put this year to a) do some X-country skiing and b) do my share of banding Snow Buntings (Nancy Furber has done the lion’s share over the past couple of years). And it looked like it was going to be a banner year….for Snow Buntings that is. Up to the warming trend we had banded 274 Snow Buntings. In the past we NEVER got them in December or early January. This was going to be the year. But as soon as the snow cleared out, so did the birds. In fact, one pundit wondered if they might turn into Mud Buntings. And, of course, there’s not a damned thing you can do about it – just wait and see.
Janice (left) and Katherine processing a bird in the new banding lab/field studies building at the Burlington campus.

Janice (left) and Katherine processing a bird in the new banding lab/field studies building at the Burlington campus.


Waiting and seeing just isn’t my bag; too restless I guess. I’ve done a little banding at Ruthven while keeping the feeders full. But the most interesting activity has been going to Fern Hill’s Oakville campus to both band and observe. Fern Hill has 2 campuses: one in Burlington and one in Oakville. “Field studies” (which includes banding) is relatively new in Oakville but has taken off. In some ways it’s a bigger challenge than at the Burlington campus. For the moment anyway the Burlington campus is surrounded by relatively wild habitat (relative to well-developed Burlington). Birds in the area can readily use the feeders there and get to them along brushy, protected “corridors”. So they get lots of birds and a nice variety. Oakville’s campus lacks that habitat, at least immediately adjacent to it.
Laura with one of our wintering American Tree Sparrows.

Laura with one of our wintering American Tree Sparrows.


One of the ongoing projects of the field studies program is to increase the amount of wild, bird-friendly habitat; areas of lawn have been set aside from further cutting, shrubs planted, feeders put up. This will take time to develop but it is interesting to see the impact so far on birdlife. Backing the campus is a large cemetery and behind that is a nice forest and river valley – still pretty wild. But the nearest point is still over 100 meters from the campus across open country. On the other side of the busy 9th Line fronting the property is a small woodlot. And on either side there are open grassy fields, as yet undeveloped (and home to Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows in the breeding season).
Each month I give a noon-time talk about some of my bird "adventures" - the big fish above my head does NOT figure into this one.  -K. Paveley

Each month I give a noon-time talk about some of my bird “adventures” – the big fish above my head does NOT figure into this one. -K. Paveley


But we’re the only feeders in a pretty wide area and we’ve begun to pull birds from distant territories to take advantage of them. I’ve seen birds fly at least half a kilometer to get to them. Black-capped Chickadees lead the way – since September we’ve banded over 40 of them. And where chickadees go others are soon to follow. This is a good year (so far) for House Finches and we’ve banded over 44 of them – 30 on one memorable day alone. (So far I’ve seen only one case of conjunctivitis, the disease that causes their numbers to crash.)

One of the most rewarding things though is the response of the students to what we’re doing. There’s now a very enthusiastic group of “Young Ornithologists” at the campus (both campuses) and a very supportive staffing team. This has been a good alternative for me……but don’t get me wrong: I’d like to be banding Snow Buntings!
Photo Gallery:

Bentley with his first banded bird: Dark-eyed Junco.   -K. Paveley

Bentley with his first banded bird: Dark-eyed Junco. -K. Paveley


Angela with another Black-capped Chickadee.   -K. Paveley

Angela with another Black-capped Chickadee. -K. Paveley


Sam with his first banded bird - a Dark-eyed Junco.   -K. Paveley

Sam with his first banded bird – a Dark-eyed Junco. -K. Paveley


Isabella with a female Northern Cardinal - which she removed from the bird bag without getting wounded.

Isabella with a female Northern Cardinal – which she removed from the bird bag without getting wounded.


The warm weather has brought some surprises: in this case a young male Red-winged Blackbird.

The warm weather has brought some surprises: in this case a young male Red-winged Blackbird.


Wing detail on the young male Red-winged Blackbird.

Wing detail on the young male Red-winged Blackbird.


Rick

January 15th – X-Country (SNBU) Checkup

This feeding flock in Lanark seems to consist entirely of males.   -L. Balthazar

This feeding flock in Lanark seems to consist entirely of males. -L. Balthazar


You have to love the prose of early naturalists. Here’s Thomas Nuttall writing about the arrival of migrating Snow Buntings in December:
“Early in December they make their descent into the Northern States in whirling, roving flocks, either immediately before or soon after an inundating fall of snow. Amidst the drifts, and as they accumulate with the blast, flocks of these illwars fogel, or bad-weather birds, of the Swedes, like the spirits of the storm are to be seen flitting about in restless and hungry troops, at times resting on the wooden fences, though but for an instant, as, like the congenial Tartar hordes of their natal regions, they appear now to have no other object in view but an escape from famine and to carry on a general system of forage while they happen to stay in the vicinity.” [Birds of the United States, 1891]
A "restless" flock.    -L. Balthazar

A “restless” flock. -L. Balthazar


I’m not sure the birds Nancy and I were seeing in December were from the natal regions of the “congenial Tartar hordes” (in fact, it would appear that some of these birds have come from Greenland based on band recoveries), but the flocks are certainly hungry as they descend on the countryside and very restless –their ‘flightiness’ reminds me a great deal of flocks of migrating shorebirds.

One of the reasons for developing the Canadian Snow Bunting Network is to try to understand why this delightful bird’s numbers have dropped by about 64% in the last 40 years (according to the National Audubon Society). This information was in an article in the in-flight magazine that Oliver Love and I chanced upon while flying south from Iqaluit (ironically) after a month of catching and banding both Common Eiders and Snow Buntings. The article attributed this decrease to “global warming”. I’ve given this a lot of thought but am still hard-pressed to see a connection.

Personally I think there’s something else at work and it’s related to another piece of “old” writing, in this case by P.A. Taverner in his Birds of Eastern Canada, 1919:
“Winter visitors in southern Canada, feeding on the weed-tops that project from the snow in open fields and rarely perching in trees. A flock alights in the weed-spotted snow and gradually works across it, the rear of the flock rising up from time to time like a flurry of snow and pitching ahead, the process being repeated until the whole field is covered.”

Industrial farming has done away with fields with projecting weed-tops. When I survey the large area around our trapping area outside the town of Hagersville in southern Ontario, all I see is a vast expanse of snow-covered fields. The only projecting plants are in thin and very occasional hedgerows – which Snow Buntings tend to shy away from. Round-up ready cropping has created huge deserts as far as winter-foraging birds are concerned. This is where I think the problem lies.

Marie-Pier Laplante, a Master’s student at the University of Quebec at Rimouski, has put together another excellent Canadian Snow Bunting Network Report in which you’ll see up-to-date developments (and makes you appreciate that all those hours generating data out in the cold are worthwhile!!).
The report can be viewed here:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0By6ybT09z_ygR2FZeXY5RzhKMmM

Yukon, NWT, Nunavut

[NO REPORTS]

Prairie Provinces

January 16, 2017
Good Morning Rick,
Here in NW Alberta it has warmed up and my bait pile that had birds coming to it have taken a leave of absence. I had a couple hundred or so SNBU’s coming to my bait pile last week with -30c temps and this week its currently +2c. I will report back if I have any luck, I’m having hard times catching Snowy Owls this winter too, with all the canola and wheat laying in the fields this year because of an early snowfall in mid-October there are plenty of voles and mice for them to eat. It’s been a hard season to catch any birds.
Mike Blom
Wildfire Ranger II
Peace River Forest Area
Forestry Division
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

January 14, 2017
We have very few SNBUs in our area this year – once again!

Harold Fisher
Nisbet Banding Station,
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
53-17-11N, 105-39-15W

January 15, 2017-01-15
[In response to my question: “Historically did SNBU’s winter in the area?”]
Yes, we see them every year in our travels around the countryside. For the most part, they seem to hang out in flocks of 50 to 200 birds, but it seems they are constantly on the move – seldom see them in the same place twice. The country here is so vast and there are so many fields of grain, especially this year where much of the crop remained unharvested, it would be nearly impossible to attract SNBUs to a specific area by baiting them.

…thought at one time that it would be possible to have them return to the site where I was feeding my horses, but they were there for a few days, then have not returned in years!

Harold Fisher
Prince Albert, SA

Ontario

Kerns Elementary School's 6th School of Flock class - many with Snow Buntings that they're just banded.  -J. Goddard

Kerns Elementary School’s 6th School of Flock class – many with Snow Buntings that they’re just banded. -J. Goddard


January 15, 2017
Hi Rick, A few spread out flocks of SNBU around the area and it has only been in the past couple days that a flock of close to 100 have found the Kern’s site [Kern’s Elementary School]. We have only attempted two days of banding so far and have banded 32 Snbu two of which were female and 1 male Lalo. Hopefully it will pick up from now on. I know my students are looking for a good excuse to skip math class a few days a week!

Pictured here is the 6th School of Flock Class many holding snow buntings. Also Grade 6 student Cameron Aitchison who banded our first snow bunting of the year.

Cameron Aitchison, who banded the first Snow Bunting of the season.   -J. Goddard

Cameron Aitchison, who banded the first Snow Bunting of the season. -J. Goddard


Youthful bander and scribe in the Kerns Buntingmobile.   -J. Goddard.

Youthful bander and scribe in the Kerns Buntingmobile. -J. Goddard.


Joanne Goddard
New Liskeard, ON

January 15, 2017
Hello Rick and Bunting Enthusiasts,
It’s been a season of hungry Snow Buntings thus far, here at the farm – just southeast of North Bay, ON. They began to take feed once we had snow cover, a couple weeks before Christmas. Often I can count 200 at some point during the day – this is nearly double the number from previous seasons. An elderly gentleman had been feeding a flock for many years about 15 miles from here. He recently passed away – perhaps that flock moved to my feed.
We are thoroughly enjoying watching our Snow Bunting visitors – running on the fields, the roofs, the driveway and fluttering down from the sky like snowflakes.
May Snow Buntings be abundant for enthusiasts and banders this year.

Lori Anderson
North Bay (area), ON

A flock of Snow Buntings feeding busily.    -L. Balthazar

A flock of Snow Buntings feeding busily. -L. Balthazar


January 11, 2017
Good day!
I just wanted to send an update and pictures of the Snow Buntings on our property.
The numbers have been gradually increasing and we now have about 200 birds visiting and feeding every day.
I am still hoping you can find someone to come and band some of those birds!!!

Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids
Lanark, Ontario

Always an oddity - Snow Buntings in the treetops.    -L. Balthazar

Always an oddity – Snow Buntings in the treetops. -L. Balthazar


January 12, 2017
Good morning,
It is really cold here this morning and the Buntings are loving it! They have been very active in the last couple of weeks; we have about 150 to 200 individuals.
Marie-Pier sent me a copy of the Snow Bunting Bulletin and I noticed something on the map showing banding stations: there are none between Montreal and Lake Ontario! Our property is located just a little bit South of Ottawa which would make it a perfect location.
At the risk of repeating myself (which I have been doing for several years now ), can we work on finding someone who could come and band some of the birds on our property? Or at least someone who could come and show me how to do it? I am more than willing to learn!
I really do believe that we could get some very valuable information from our Lanark Highlands flock, both from banding birds and from birds which have already been banded.
Let me know your thoughts.

Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids Road
Lanark, Ontario
613-278-1230

January 9, 2017
Hello Rick,
I had never seen or even heard of snow buntings before today. I’m obviously not an experienced birder!
Today, though, a huge flock of these birds (100+) came through our property just north of Goderich, Ontario. It took some detective work to figure out that they were snow buntings and that research led me to you and your banding efforts.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any photos, but I wasn’t sure if the sighting report itself would be helpful. If they’re still around tomorrow, I’ll venture out with the camera.

Colin Carmichael
Goderich, ON

January 14, 2017
[In reponse to my question whether they were still around:] Sorry no. It seems they were just passing through. I haven’t seen them since Sunday.

Colin Carmichael
Goderich, ON

January 14, 2017
The lack of snow and warm temperates have caused the birds to disappear. .
….I am hoping Motus will give us an idea of where they go …. only banded around 200 … back to my preponderance of males… perhaps 90%

David Lamble
Fergus, ON

January 14, 2017
Hello Rick
Snow Buntings in King City are not very good at the moment we have banded 200 with one return and a foreign bird the same day . Every time it snows there is a flock of about 80 that come around but then it rains and they go away so we will hope for some more snow and no rain also there is very little snow on the ground at the trapping site.
Foreign Recovery 2641-34112 captured in King City January 1 2017 5LP MPL 108 WING FAT OF 2 WEIGHT 34.4

Regards Glenn (Reed) and Theresa (Mckenzie)
King City, ON

January 15, 2017
We got some warm weather and rain in early January and our birds disappeared. But around January 7th we got 2 cm of snow and the temperature dropped…..and the Snow Buntings returned. We banded 64 on the 8th; 70 on the 9th; and 16 on the10th. And then mild again……

Rick Ludkin & Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park Banding Station
Cayuga, ON

Quebec

[NO REPORTS]

Maritime Provinces

January 14, 2017
Rick, nothing yet on McKay Siding Rd just north of Stewiacke in NS, although my husband saw a small flock of “my little white birds” two weeks ago on the NS shore of the Bay of Fundy west of Maitland.

Barb McLaughlin
Stewiacke, NS

January 14, 2017
Hi Rick and all
Here in south eastern New Brunswick, I have seen only a few birds and none came down on the seeds yet.
I am now teaching ornithology at Université de Moncton and would LOVE to ne able to band with my students so we will try hard to bait a flock in the next weeks
As for photos; I am not sure if you meant of birds THIS year or just photos of SNBU in general ? Cause I have some serious bank of images if you need them for education or for a publication for the network. I’ll be pleased to send you some
Merci beaucoup!

Alain Clavette
Memramcook, NewBrunswick

Newfoundland/Labrador

[NO REPORTS]

U.S.A.
[NO REPORTS]