Cross-Country (SNBU) Checkup- April 7th



WOW! What a great winter it has been! I’m really happy to be sharing with you this last bunting checkup, with plentiful of great season reports in it. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share the highlights of their 2015 season. Enjoy the reading!

Quick note : it would be great if everyone could send me their data once it’s been entered so that I can add it to the CSBN database. Thanks!


(March 28th) Just before the March Break we had a big melt, exposing lots of spilled corn around our site and making trapping snow buntings practically impossible. I hate to admit that I was looking forward to packing away the traps for the year, but then, in typical Northern Ontario fashion, a few more inches of snow fell.  Although the bird numbers had greatly dropped at our site, the students at Kerns decided to give it another week’s effort. Every day a small flock of about 30 birds came to visit the traps, every day we would catch 3 or 4 birds, and every day the kids hoped to get a foreign bird. On Friday March 27th we were surprised to band 26 SNBU in a flock that couldn’t be much more than 30 birds, and to our pleasant surprise, in that small flock was a David Lamble bird!  Also this week we had a couple of returning birds from other years and one of our birds was recovered by Simon Duval at his Coteau-du-lac site.

We will continue our efforts for another week to see if we can catch any other foreigns on their way north.  Here is a picture of us in our new banding shirts and toques- the third annual SCHOOL OF FLOCK snow hill picture! school of flock 15

One of Kern's fan club members. Humm.. Looks like a familiar face.

One of Kern’s fan club members. Humm.. Looks like a familiar face.

Jaden & Andrew

Jaden & Andrew

(April 2nd) Well we were determined to try to band a few more birds since our last post.  On Monday March 30th  two determined students Andrew and Jaden sat in the banding-mobile for two hours at the trap site. A small flock of about 20 snow buntings hung around the traps but the students were only able to catch one. Also a gathering of crows decided to take an interest in the site making catching snow buntings practically impossible.  We kept an eye out for the next two days, but besides seeing a solitary snbu flying over the school, no more birds have visited the trap site. Below is a brief outline of our banding season.  Needless to say the students were disappointed with our totals, but enjoyed the experience nonetheless.

Banding Totals

462 Snow buntings    (Previous record 1400)

7 Lapland longspurs   (previous record 64)

Interesting recaptures and recoveries

-On January 8th Simon Duval  recovers Kerns’ bird originally banded Jan. 28th 2013

-On January 25th Bruce Murphy recovers a David Lamble bird from Fergus Ontario at the Dawson Point site originally banded on Feb 4th 2014 as a second year male

-On January 29th Kerns’ students recapture 3 Snow buntings originally banded on January 29th 2013 (exactly two years earlier) and one snow bunting originally banded on Feb 23rd 2012

-On March 24th Simon Duval  recovers another Kerns’ bird originally banded on Jan 8th 2014

-On March 27th Kerns’ students recover a David Lamble bird originally banded on March 30th 2014.

-The longest bird to hang around Kerns was first banded on January 24th and was last caught on March 27th

-The most frequently recaptured snow bunting was first banded on January 29th and was caught 4 more times!  It was last recaptured on March 8thJoanne Goddard, Temiskaming

***  If you have not done so, go check out Kern’s student banding video on you tube! 

Hello, the Snow Buntings left my property around March 17th or 18th, just a couple of days after I spotted a Lapland Longspur among the flock. As always, I will miss their soft chirping and aerial display! I will let you know as soon as they come back next season, usually around December. Lise Balthazar, Sheridan Rapids

(April 6th) Report from Nancy Furber : It was a late start to the Snow Bunting (SNBU) banding season in Hagersville area for 2015 due to the lack of winter weather. During the month of January there was very little snowfall, some very cold COLD days but very few SNBU’s were observed and no bait site had been established. On February 1st and 2nd that all changed with the first snowstorm of the year when a Colorado low swept through the area leaving over 30 cm of snow.

On February 2nd, I established a few piles of corn at the old bait site in the country from 2014. I was hoping the Snow Buntings would remember the site from last year and return again this year. So, when I returned on February 3rd, it was a beautiful sight to see a small flock of Snow Buntings feeding on the corn. I was ready to band some Snow Buntings so I trapped my first buntings on February 3rd and the bunting banding season had begun! Through the month of February and the first week of March there were 28 banding days. The total number of birds banded was 3,602 birds: Snow Bunting’s – 3,462; Horned Lark’s – 124; and Lapland Longspur’s – 16 (significant drop from previous years). There were 21 foreign retraps and 12 retraps of Ruthven banded birds from previous years.

On March 3rd, I established a second banding site in the small town of Hagersville at the train depot. The two bait sites were six km’s apart, east to west. At the train depot, there were two grain cars on a side track. For over a week I had observed flocks of Snow Buntings (~300) feeding at this site. There were piles of oats scattered on the ground under the cars. Once I put a couple of small piles of corn down at this site the Snow Buntings were feeding on it instantly! The very first day (March 3rd) I banded at the train depot site, I retrapped six Snow Buntings that had been banded earlier in February at the bait site in the country! The Snow Buntings were flying back and forth between the two sites to feed.

Of the 21 foreign retrapped Snow Buntings, five of them were trapped at the train depot site and sixteen from the country site. The 14 retrapped birds with Ruthven bands included 12 Snow Buntings and 2 Horned Larks, all trapped at the country bait site. One of the oldest Snow Buntings was an ASY F banded in 2011 and the oldest Horned Lark was banded in 2013.

The month of February was one of the coldest months on record, with a mean temperature of -15 C. There was also a new Snow Bunting banding record this season with 3,462 buntings banded, the old record was 2,844 birds banded. Even with the cold temperatures some days were beautiful with the warmth of the sun and the site of watching the ‘Snowflakes’ (buntings) swirling and dropping out of the blue sky. Thanks to everyone for a great season!   Nancy Furber, Ruthven Park Banding Lab, Cayuga


Train depot site – busy days with birds coming in to feed.


Snow Buntings all lined up along the top.

Hagersville Train Depot Bait Site

Trap set-up successfully catching birds.


The new site at the train depot.


Always looking both ways as I crossed the tracks!

Duxbury Bait Site (2)

The bait site in the country. Open country in every direction.

 (31st March) I haven’t seen a Snow Bunting in the area in the past week. Most of the snow has melted and there is a lot of open ground to cover now. We may get a few small flocks moving through from the south over the next couple of weeks but I doubt that any will stay in one place for long. Cindy Carthwright, Bruce

(April 2nd) Hi Marie-Pier, a short summary for King City: 1668 SNBU banded 2015, with 596 recaptures vs. 1242 banded and 129 recaps in winter 2013-2014.  A consistent food supply in agricultural fields at and near the site is a likely reason for the higher bird counts, bandings and recaps.  The sex ratio change is harder to interpret with 18% females the previous year, 59% this.  We had many more opportunities to ponder those tricky to age females this year .

Age ratios were similar to last year:  73% juvenile age class (HY to Dec 31, SY from Jan 1) in 2013-14 and 76% juvenile this winter.We had 14 foreign birds recaptured,  several of which repeated after first capture, versus 8 last year, and no repeats.  10 of the 14 this year were within season bandings from David Lamble, 99 km to the west.  The others were S. Ontario bandings from last year.

As you know, we began scoring the crop this winter after realizing that there was sufficient variability to affect any analysis that might look at weight-fat score.  Using a 4 point scale ,where 0 reflects no visible food in crop, when viewed through the skin at the front, sides and back of the neck.  A score of 4 was recorded where there were 2 large bulging areas of crop (generally seen front and back, sometimes front and side of neck).  A 2 score for half full most often represented as one large bulge, rarely two areas half full.  1 and 3 scores were used if crop fullness was judged to be between the 0 and 2 or 2 and 4 levels.  We found good consistency between 3 banders in scoring this way.  It was a simple matter to blow the feathers aside to assess this, while scoring fat, simply by continuing the process around the neck of the bird.

It was an interesting season.  We hope some of these birds will still be seen heading back to the breeding grounds. We wish everyone a Happy spring.  On to the next banding season …. Theresa Mckenzie, King City

Bonjour Marie-Pier, we did ok with the Snow Buntings……. a final total of 7 061. I have included the times in the data set. I hope that is of value. Strange year……. over 1 000 females banded…… never had that many before. Oh well, I will look forward to next season…………………… David Lamble, Fergus

Hi Marie,

Here is our season totals in Glen Morris :

SNBU : 1050      HOLA : 109          LALO. : 2

17 foreign recaptures. 170 recap records.

Here are the foreign recaptures we do not have records for :

2531-30896  SY M


2691-56613 SY M

2691-80221 SY F

2691-81072 ASY F

Bill Read and Ross Dickson, Glen Morris


This year, Patrice Bourgault (Université de Sherbrooke) and I chose to band on 4 different sites around the city of Sherbrooke, QC. We stopped baiting at one of them, because no birds were seen after a month of baiting. My hypothesis is that the birds were disturbed by one of the neighbours. The 3 other sites provided us with some faithful groups of birds.

We can only band once or twice a week for half a day each session, although next winter I am planning to go almost full time. We started this project with several objectives in mind. First of all, we wanted to give the bachelor students another opportunity to band and to handle small birds. Another objective was to learn more about the dynamics of local movements of the Snow Bunting in the Eastern Township, which is apart from other sites in part, because it’s far from the main migration/wintering area (Great Lakes and St-Lawrence River) and the landscape surrounding the sites is mainly extensive agriculture and forested lands. So this is why we plan to band on at least 3 sites every winter to maximise the recapture probabilities between sites.

This year was a good one for us, we caught birds in almost every banding session. We had a total of 37 birds and one recapture from one of our bird. We caught only 3 females and 18 older birds. We banded 9 birds from Cookshire (the same site that was run by Marie-Pier Laplante last year; 45°23’11’’N, 71°45’0’’W), 12 birds from Richmond (45°38’04’’N, 72°09’03’’W) and 16 birds from Stoke (45°32’31’’N, 71°53’07’’W).


The nicely wind-sheltered Cookshire site where P-A is now banding.

We have a big project for next winter or the winter of 2017, which is to fix radio transmitters on Snow Bunting and to follow them as they move around to learn how they use their environment. The other thing that we will investigate is the differences in size on our different sites. The birds showed differences in mass and wing length through our sites. With more data, it is one of the things that we would like to look into, maybe linking it with isotope analysis. Pier-Alexandre Dumas, Sherbrooke

** In the La Pocatière area, Thomas Biteau was able to catch his first buntings this season (11) and mentioned he will continue on his effort next year, building on the experience his first season brought to him.

Report from Southern Québec : Mirabel : From March 9 to March 26, 18 mornings of banding produced 302 SNBU, 2 HOLA and 1 LALO. Overall, the flow of birds was fairly steady without any distinct peaks. During the period, we recaptured many birds, but 2 were of interest:

-1 SNBU banded in Coteau-du-lac 3 days before being caught in Mirabel

-2531-17159, a David Lamble bird banded in Arthur, ON on 02/14/2013, a Valentine’s day bird!!

Mirabel season total: 1063 SNBU, 5 LALO and 1 HOLA

St-Roch: From March 9 to March 26, 13 mornings of banding produced 110 SNBU. The peak for St-Roch was between March 21 to March 24 with 74 SNBU banded in 4 mornings. It was a pretty good winter but we realised that St-Roch is much better early in the season, with 64% of the captures occurring before January 8th.

St-Roch Season total: 988 SNBU and 6 LALO

Coteau-du-lac : During the period March 9 to March 28, we banded 316 SNBU, 2 HOLA and 2 LALO. We had two interesting recaps, one from King City and one from Kerns Public School. Keep them coming next year, please!

Our final day of SNBU banding was March 25, although we made effort until March 28. At that point our site had devolved into a quagmire and we admitted to ourselves that the season was over.

The age and sex class percentages of our SNBU captures for the entire season are:

HY/SY-M 53%
HY/SY-F 9%

Our efforts were challenged by extreme cold and very high snow banks, but we managed good coverage, with captures on 60 days of our season.

Coteau-du-lac Season total: 1096 SNBU, 36 HOLA, 21 LALO and 1 SOSP

It was a good winter for our three Southern Quebec Teams. We banded a total of 3147 SNBU, a record season for us! Simon Duval, the Migration Research Foundation

In Sainte-Luce this winter, 375 SNBU’s and 4 LALO’s were banded. I had only 10 recaps of my own birds and 1 foreign recap throughout the season. Unsurprisingly, the sex ratio was 92 % males, 8% females. Banding began January 8th and remained slow until around mid/end of February, when things picked up a bit. There were 30 banding days in total (usually only morning or afternoon for 2-5 hours. And last banding day was March 23rd (and last bunting seen in that area, too).

(April 3rd) Salut Marie-Pier, after a month without SNBU, following a VERY quiet winter for SNBU in Barnston-Ouest, a small flock of 26 showed up for a day on March 14.  Haven’t seen one since and don’t expect to before sometime next winter, when I hope they will return in greater numbers. Carl Bromwich, Barnston-Ouest, eastern townships


The group of 300+ in my Memramcook, NB yard has gone down to about 80-100 on Friday the 27th of March. Only about 60 Birds left Sunday March 29th. And NONE seen today so far 🙁 ….the very lively backyard I got used to since first week of January as gone silent and motionless. I will miss them. This was a first year of banding for us and we got organised way too late; but a good ”practice run” for next year. The results will be coming trough Dr. Nicolas Lecomte Alain Clavette, Memramcook, NB


I have tried for the last 4 years to attract SNBUs to my area, but to no avail.  Perhaps my area is too wooded – I see birds in the general area, but always in large groups and always in open areas, along the grid roads and seldom in the same place twice.  It is a very difficult situation here to try to attract them to a single location in numbers that would allow me to catch them, so I will probably bow out of the program for next year.  I would very much like to remain on the mailing list, however. Harold Fisher, Nisbet Banding Station, Prince Albert, SK


(March 23rd )We have had small groups of SNBU 20-30, travelling through Haines Junction for about 2 weeks. Started our banding March 18 in local hayfield. Have 130 birds present today with high % of males. A few have beaks that are turning black and all white heads. First day of trapping was one, then 9 and the third day only 7. Using some odd traps and need to make more. Last year was a total of 32 but I was working and our flock was only 30-40. Last year our banding period was only for 2 weeks as the birds travelled through the area very quickly

(April 2nd)We had a short season here in the Yukon March 18-28th. Snow was disappearing on the 28th and too much natural food appearing for the buntings to eat. Banded 136 birds, 68% males which seems like a lower number than the eastern  numbers?   When looking at ASY compared with SY of both sexes we had 57% SY of which most were young males. Learned to not put out too much feed and got organized and built some of recommended ground traps. Still having birds move through.This is the second year that we have the opportunity to work this lovely species Julie Bauer, Haines Junction, YT


Scenic Yukon AND buntings… Who wants to go for banding holidays at Julie’s?


Things are still slow for Snow Buntings in the NWT; none seen in the Ft Simpson area (southwest) this weekend, but there were a few reported from Yellowknife area.  With warm weather continuing, they should be coming through in good numbers very soon. Douglas Tate, NWT


Cross-Country (SNBU) Check-up- March 13th

Well, the buntings seemed to have moved on from Southern Ontario now… Spring has come so suddenly and we in Quebec are waiting for the migrating buntings to show up at the traps!

463 bruant des neiges bague

Banded bunting near Kamouraska, Qc


Glenn caught 25 on Monday March 9th, didn’t band Tuesday and by Wednesday March 11th there were none around and the snow is largely melted.  He took the traps out of the field today, before they sank in mud.  It’s been a great season overall though, and we’re hoping to see some captures of Ontario banded birds in Quebec on the back.  Fingers crossed… (Theresa and Glenn also did another interesting foreign recap back in early February, a bird originally banded by Claire Sanders at East Harrow Banding Station (outside of Windsor) last February.) Theresa McKenzie, King City

 (March 9th )I need another 13 birds to reach 7 000, by the way, so it has been a good year….. not record breaking ………. but a good year. (March 12th) There are no Snow Buntings at my Fergus site at all. Unless we get hit by a sudden blizzard, I am afraid that this is the end of the season here. David Lamble, Fergus

*** Nancy Furber in Hagersville also reported the buntings having left Haldimand area, with the last banding taking place last week-end… Nancy has managed to band over 3000 birds, mostly all in February, so that’s wonderful!


The period of Feb 23 – Mar 8 was even slower than the last one, but the Montreal teams are still out there and we’re hoping things will change, birds will start moving soon! Come on southern people, you’ve had them enough now; time to let us enjoy it as well!

 Mirabel :   During the period Feb 23-March 8th, only 68 SNBU were banded in 12 mornings. The flock is getting a bit bigger but they are also liking the side of the road very much. We’ve had one good morning on March 4 with 21 SNBU banded. During the period, we did recapture two interesting birds:

-2531-19017, a David Lamble bird banded in Arthur, ON on 01/22/2012

-1 SNBU banded in St-Roch on January 21, 2015, did it spend time in Ontario and is getting back or was it just wandering around southern Quebec?! (Mirabel season total: 761 SNBU, 5 LALO and 1 HOLA)

St-Roch:    During the period, 4 mornings of banding produced only 22 SNBU. The flock is still fairly small (20-30). Flock seem to be improving on a daily basis but we did get a morning of ZERO bunting seen on March 8! (St-Roch Season total: 878 SNBU and 6 LALO)

Coteau-du-lac :    These last two weeks have been frustrating at Coteau. Although our effort was daily, we only caught buntings on 6 days for a total of 65 SNBU and 1 LALO (and three Tim Horton’s Roll-up- the-Rim wins).Our site was plowed over by the local farmer; this meant re-establishing our trap location. Fortunately the birds have now found the bait and we hope to be trapping better numbers in the next period. The flock size has grown to over one hundred, which is very positive after the low observations of this period. (Coteau-du-lac Season total: 780 SNBU, 34 HOLA, 19 LALO and 1 SOSP)

 Southern Quebec Teams are now at a total of 2419 SNBU banded for the winter.

Simon Duval, the Migration Research Foundation

I caught 80 more birds at the Ste-Luce site since the last post, but actually have not seen a single bird there in the last week, which is the first time that happened since early January. I still visit everyday and wait for the Ontarian buntings to make their way down the St-Lawrence…

We can do a last post early April recapitulating highlights from everyone’s season!


Cross-Country (SNBU) Checkup- January 25th- First Snow Buntings at Kern’s and some interesting retraps!

First Snow Bunting banded at Kern’s! Good job guys!


We are happy to report that the Kerns School of Flock is back in business!

Our first bird was caught on January 16th. The only bird caught that day. After 7 days of banding the Kerns kids have caught 48 birds, which is not so bad considering we have only been setting our traps for a maximum of 2 hours a day.  We plan to extend our trapping hours as the birds become less skiddish and more plentiful. Right now we have a flock of about 150-200 birds.  Another bit of exciting news is that we recaptured a bird that we banded back on January 29th 2013. It was originally banded as an ASY M.
IMG_5660kerns banding

Joanne Goddard, Temiskaming

Hello Marie-Pier:

I hope all is well with your Snow Bunting banding. It is reasonable here, but the lack of snow cover means we started off quite slowly…. but things are picking up (David had banded around 1700 birds back on January 22nd). However, I did have an interesting Snow Bunting retrap that I thought would interest you.
As you probably know, the oldest Snow Bunting in the banding record is 8 years old. I have one now that matches that. I suspect as we continue the network, we will inevitably break to longevity record.
However, on January 25, 2009 I banded an ASY-M Snow Bunting — 2331-48762………… so this fellow was hatched in 2007 or earlier. I did not retrap the little guy in 2009.
However, I did retrap him twice in 2010, three times in 2011……… but he did not come back in 2012…….. however he showed up once in 2013 and three times in 2014. Interestingly , on January 25, 2015 he visited me again………… making him at least 8 years old ( although technically he is really a minimum of 7.5 years old).
Thought this might interest you……………….. David Lamble, Fergus



Migration is finally over in Southern Quebec, the snow cover is high enough now and the majority of the birds have moved south. We are starting to see more recaptures in our flocks and less movement between the sites.


During the period, 106 SNBU were banded. There were two good days on Jan 12 and Jan 18 with 24 and 23 birds banded. Other residents/photographers have been spreading seeds near our catching site so the birds have plenty of options to choose from. Our success should increase once we get another dump of snow.

Some interesting recaps at Mirabel included:

-1 SNBU banded by Marie-Pier Laplante in Cookshire-Eaton (approx. 190 km north-north-east) last winter.

-1 SNBU banded in Mirabel on January 19 2013 recaptured on exactly the same date, two years later

-2 SNBU banded in St-Roch, 1 from last winter, and 1 from 15 days before.

Mirabel season total: 632 SNBU, 5 LALO and 1 HOLA


 From Jan 15 to 25, 185 SNBU and 2 LALO were banded. There was no real peak during the period, just a steady flow of overwintering birds. The flock at St-Roch has been between 20 and 80 birds everyday but the birds seems less hungry than a month ago. In the last couple of days, we noticed that the fat levels are going down, which also suggests that although there will be small movements during the winter; the big long-distance migration is pretty much over.

Some interesting recaps at St-Roch included:

-4 individuals banded in Mirabel this winter that came back 30 km north, including one that was banded on November 21, 2014, where was it during all this time?

St-Roch Season total: 818 SNBU and 6 LALO


 During the period (Jan 11 to Jan 25), Coteau was our busiest of the three sites with 209 SNBU, 10 HOLA and 3 LALO banded. There is all sorts of drama going on at Coteau. There are reports of Snowy Owls being poached in the area. As a results, the police as stopped us twice to ask what we were doing. There are also hunters who are making trapping very difficult as they hang out around within 20 meters of our bait site. On the positive side, the 1 SOSP banded in December is still hanging around on a daily basis, he’s now become a master at going in and out of the traps without being caught!!

Some interesting recaps at Coteau-du-lac included:

-1 LALO recaptured 8 times since January 14

-1 SNBU banded last year at Coteau-du-lac

-1 SNBU banded in December 2014 in St-Roch

Coteau-du-lac Season total: 351 SNBU, 34 HOLA, 15 LALO and 1 SOSP

So this brings our Southern Quebec Teams to a total of 1801 SNBU banded. We are hoping to break last year’s record season of 2057 SNBU in the first few days of February!

Simon Duval, The Migration Research Foundation

For my part, there are plenty of birds, but the trapping does not work as well as I would hope. I’m putting in a lot of effort for a very few birds caught. With the rain we had last week, the field is still half-covered with snow… I did band a few more, which makes my total to about 70. But the good news is, it’s fun anyways.


Photo: MP Laplante





Cross-Country (SNBU) Checkup- December 28th- We need more snow!


Another Arctic creature calls the bait area home. This snowy owl has been a regular visitor within the last week in Ste-Luce. Photo MP Laplante



 (December 27th)

We still have no SNBU winter flocks near our site, not surprising with the warm temperatures and no snow.  The closest observations I have heard of a flock of about 50 birds in the Ravenshoe Rd. area approximately 20 km away.  Another report in the same area was of a “large” flock. We’re looking forward to hearing how Quebec, Temiskaming and others are doing.

 Theresa, King City, ON


(December 27th)

We continue to have unseasonably warm temperatures and no snow, so no Snow buntings have been sighted at any of the sites we hoped to work at this year. Hopefully this will change in January! Best,

Vicki Piaskowski, Hartland, WI


(December 28th)

Everything was going smoothly until the white stuff melted…


From Dec 16 to Dec 23, 108 SNBU and 1 LALO were banded. Some days were better than others but the peak was on Dec 23 with 36 SNBU banded. Unfortunately, that’s when the rain started and after a few days of rain, the fields were bare again.

Some interesting recaps at Mirabel included:

 -2421-91860, banded on Jan 23, 2013 in Arthur, ON

-SNBU banded at St-Roch on Dec 13 2014 and caught at Mirabel 10 days later (30km)

-3 SNBU banded last winter at Mirabel were recaught

-1 SNBU banded in Jan 2013 and that was recaught in Jan 2014 was recaught again, 3rd consecutive year in the area, or passing through the area.

Mirabel Season total: 187 SNBU, 1 LALO


Map showing the location of the three banding stations of the S.QC. teams


St-Roch has been our most productive site this year, even with a similar effort to the other sites (about 1,5h each day). Since this site is more to the east, we think the birds find this one first, refuel and don’t need to stop at Mirabel, only 30 km west. Looking back at the March migration last year, the opposite was also true. From March 22 to 31, 572 SNBU were banded at Mirabel while St-Roch only did 68 SNBU with similar effort. Interesting!

Back to this year, from Dec 14 to 23, 341 SNBU and 4 LALO were banded. Besides 3 days, all the other were in the 40 to 50 birds banded range, peaking on Dec 23 with 60 SNBU, again just before the rain started. The field in which we work is now flooded and we’re not sure how we’re going to handle that, hopefully a lot of snow is on the way!

Some interesting recaps at St-Roch included:

 -2411-99683, banded on Jan 8 2014 in Port Rowan, ON

-1 SNBU banded in Mirabel on Dec 18 was recaught only two days later in St-Roch (30km going back east)

-1 SNBU banded in Coteau-du-lac on Dec 12 was recaught ten days later in St-Roch (70km going back east)

St-Roch Season total: 481 SNBU, 4 LALO


Another really diverse two weeks for Coteau-du-lac with 90 SNBU, 9 HOLA, 5 LALO and 1 SOSP. Flocks have been from various size but it was getting better towards the end, with 38 SNBU banded on Dec 22. Some Song Sparrows have been visiting the bait site, even escaping from the traps until finally one was caught this week. Unfortunately there again the snow all melted and the flock is gone. Not only is this site very good for HOLA and LALO, it also has the highest female percentage this year by a wide margin with 38%.

Coteau-du-lac Season total: 119 SNBU, 24 HOLA, 12 LALO and 1 SOSP.

So this brings our Southern Quebec Teams to a total of 787 SNBU banded. Everything is at a standstill now, we need snow!

Simon Duval, Migration Research Foundation

(December 28th)

In the highlands of Sainte-Luce near Rimouski, the last 2 weeks have been exciting. The bait site area turns out to be an even better spot for snow buntings than I had imagined.

Standing on the roof in between feeding bouts. Photo MP Laplante


SNBU’s love to feed…across the road from the bait. Photo: MP Laplante

Several large flocks (sometimes up to a thousand birds, with quite a few LALO) remained in the area. They have been wavering -over and around-, -over, around and over again- the traps, uncertain and timid. It just makes me go crazy to have these hundreds of birds around and not catch anything! I think more snow is needed for things to get busy. I am thinking to give some kind of other trapping method a try next year (woosh-net?), at least for December. Yet I did band the two first birds on December 21st: 1 SNBU and 1 LALO, so that was nice.

With the rain and warm weather, same story here as in Montreal area for now though: fields are bare and everybody is gone…


Solitary SNBU hanging out on the top of roof, longing for the company of his friends and for the snow to return. Photo:MP Laplante


A nice Christmas gift received: hand-made SNBU-inspired clock.


May you or other people you might know be interested in participating in a snow bunting census project, please have a look at the following website:

The data collected will be used to assess the influence of snow depth on snow bunting’s abundance, as part of my research project. You can download the field protocol on the website to have more information on the project.

And one last thing to check out is the new facebook page for the CSBN that Simon Duval has created! Thanks to this initiative, more people will be able to find us on the web and learn about our activities!

*** We’ll do another post in two weeks from now, please send me the news you would like to share by January 10th

Happy new year to all! May your lives filled with joy and your traps with buntings!


Cross-country (SNBU) Checkup – November 13th

Sunset at a baited site by the shore of the St-Lawrence in Ste-Luce, QC. Photo MP Laplante

Sunset at a baited site by the shore of the St-Lawrence in Ste-Luce, QC. Photo MP Laplante


 (November 10th)

SNBU began trickling through south-central Manitoba Oct. 9.  Most reports are of groups of 2-20, with one report of 40, one of 69, and two of 200: the first Oct.18 on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg at Riverton Sandy Bar IBA; the second Oct. 25 just sw of Winnipeg. (Same flock??).  As in previous years, they appear to travel mainly between the lakes, favouring the shorelines.  But this could be a bias in reporting.  Not one seen here (2 1/2 miles west of Camp Morton) yet this year, but a few individuals reported at the lakeshore.

All the best, Bill Maciejko, Camp Morton Manitoba


(November 11th)

Hello all!  It is nice to “meet” you Marie-Pier!

We have had two sightings of SNBU at Kerns so far this season.  We had a blustery Halloween day and along with the ghosts and goblins blew in a flock of about 300 SNBU.  I took some time to watch the flock with my bins and saw several LALO in the flock as well.   On Sunday Nov. 9th, another snowy day, I went to school to grab some materials and sure enough the Flock was back! Today school was cancelled for a snow day… I think the birds may be here to stay.  The kids will start baiting the fields soon. The kids are super excited! Joanne Goddard, Timiskaming Shores

(November 10th)

Hello Fellow SNBU banders, Here in Essex County we have a new challenge for this coming winter’s SNBU season, namely the loss of our East Harrow banding location.Our host was hit by the love bug and moved out of her rental house on farm property that had been our SNBU banding home for the past few seasons.We have a lead on a replacement location and hope to announce that we will be continuing our winter efforts going forward.Stay tuned for the next exciting installment.

PS: The Raptor Watch at Holiday Beach has heard SNBU’s flying over…can snow be far behind ? Bob Hall-Brooks, Essex County

(November 12th)

Good morning to all,

I saw my first Snow Bunting of the season on October 22nd, just a kilometer up the road from my house on Sheridan Rapids Road, in Lanark, Ontario.Yesterday, I spotted a flock of about 12 Snow Buntings in an open gravel pit, about 3 kilometers from my house, on Iron Mine Road. That is the 3rd year in a row that I have spotted Buntings at that same spot, around the same time of year. I watched them for several minutes, as they were hopping about on a bit gravel mound. I’m not sure why they pick that spot; perhaps it resembles their nesting grounds on Baffin Island, or it’s a like a benchmark or a point of reference when they first arrive in the area?

I haven’t seen any on my property yet, but the white millet is on the ground and you’ll be the first to know when they show up!

Have a good day, Lise Balthazar, Lanark, Ontario

 (November 10th)

Saw a lovely flock of about 50 Snow Buntings near Port Elgin on the Bruce today. I am already getting “the itch”………….. David Lamble, Fergus


(November 10th)

Not much to report here from Newfoundland, though there have been some reports of SNBUs in eastern Newfoundland and one report from western Newfoundland over the past 2 weeks. Best, Darroch Whitaker, Rocky Harbour


 (November 11th)

I have not spotted big flocks in my area yet, but a few groups of 10-100 individuals are often observed in nearby fields. I have not started baiting yet, but should start to do so soon. As soon as the ground remains covered with snow, I will start trapping. Benoit Gendreau – Berthier-sur-Mer, QC

(November 13th)

And here in Rimouski area, Qc, I saw the first few lone SNBU’s travelers back on around October 23rd. Small flocks of migrating SNBU’s have been a common sight along the shores of the St-Lawrence in the last couple weeks as well. I have started baiting a site this week right by the river in Ste-Luce and 2 buntings were feeding on the corn patch today. I will start baiting another site this week end. We had kind of a snow storm last week end and more snow falling this week. It has melted now but it’s a matter of days before snow falls again and stays for good… And with it, the snow buntings… Marie-Pier



July 8th – Eureka!!

Female Snow Bunting banded last July 10th in Iqaluit and fitted with a geolocator was recovered by David Hussel's team today!!

Female Snow Bunting banded last July 10th in Iqaluit and fitted with a geolocator was recovered by David Hussel’s team today!!

Late last June and into July, in Iqaluit, David Hussell, Ricky Dunn and I banded Snow Buntings that had nests. We put on a regular aluminum band, a light blue plastic band (on the left leg) and a geolocator. The latter fits on the bird’s back with a harness – like a little backpack. The geolocator records where the bird is – latitude and longitude – each day. This will give us an idea its migration routes, both south and north, and its wintering area. Very little is know about Snow Buntings that breed in the Canadian Arctic. Christie Macdonald used geolocators to follow some nesting buntings from Southampton Island. This is the second population of Canadian birds that we will get some data on (assuming that the gizmo was working).

This bird, a female, was originally caught on July 10th, 2013. David noted in his email that they have also found another banded bird with a geolocator, a male. They will be trying to catch it over the next few days. It will be exciting to see the routes these eastern Arctic birds took and to see where they spent the Winter!

[Note: we will be banding tomorrow morning at Ruthven.]