Cross-Country (SNBU) Checkup- December 14th- An early and busy start for the Southern Québec banding teams!

While all of us are itching to get started, eagerly waiting for Snow Buntings to be part of our day-to-day lives again, the Southern Québec teams have been busy banding at their 3 sites since November 19th!  See down below for their updated totals.

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Flock near Camp Morton, MB. Photo : Bill Maciejko


 (December 11th)

Observed lots of SNBU’s but having difficulties trapping birds. SNBU’s were feeding at my bait piles but it warmed up from -30c to +6c and birds quit feeding at my bait site. Hoping for old man winter to return here soon.

Mike Blom, Peace Region Raptor Project, Peace River Alberta Canada


(December 10th)

I believe this is my 4th year with this group and I have yet to catch my  first SNBU.  I built a trap (works great for Pine Grosbeaks!), but have yet to lure a group of these birds into bait.  I see large swarms of them along the grid roads and out in the fields, but they seem to be constantly on the move. Maybe this year!

Harold Fisher. Nisbet Banding Station, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

(December 9th)

Just saw a small flock of about 25 birds just east of Saskatoon.

Christy, Saskatoon area


 (December 12th)

Snow Buntings began arriving at their usual over-wintering site near Camp Morton, MB right on schedule: as soon as the snow depth topped six inches, which occurred over night Nov. 28-29 this year.  Beginning with two individuals, the flock quickly grew to a steady 100 (with a high count of 150 through the day, Dec. 6th).  These numbers held through Dec. 10th, when we began a period of abnormally warm temperatures with very strong southerly winds blowing through the days and most of the nights.  From then on, the flock diminished to only 23 at the heaviest feed yesterday and again today (Dec. 13th).

In the past week I have seen several reports from across southern Manitoba of sightings of small drifts of 3 to 20, 12-15 being the most common.  On Dec. 8th a flock of 50 was reported about 20 km southwest of here (Camp Morton), and on the 10th, three well separated flocks (40, 50, 80) were recorded about 80 km to the north.  Best of all was reading of a flock of 250 seen today, about 40km to the southwest.

However, all numbers are much lower than normal.  Another “bait/feed station,” just north of Winnipeg is seeing only 12-30 SNBU, with a high count of 50, where 100-150 are the norm.  Checking my records back through 2007, I should have had at least a few sightings of 500 by this date, with a regular feeding flock of 300-400.  Hopefully they’re just late, and numbers will increase when this warm spell ends next week.

As to banding: no good news there, either.  As they say in Hollywood, “I have put feelers out” among the local banders, but so far have had no takers.

Bill Maciejko, Camp Morton Manitoba

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Bill and SNBU’s in Camp Morton are waiting for a bander! Photo: Bill Maciejko


(December 10th)

A regular schedule for updates is a great idea. As of right now we have no snow, and have had no observations of SNBU winter flocks in our area (there have been a observations of a few birds here and there since late fall). There is only a 2-4 cm snow forecast between now and the weekend. I’ll update again before Sunday if anything changes.


Theresa, King City

 (December 10th)

Hello Marie-Pier and Snow Bunting Enthusiasts,

In Nipissing, (I am located 25 miles SE of North Bay) Snow Buntings have been happily moving around my neighbourhood for the past month or so, feasting on the many hay and grain fields which were never harvested this past wet season. They have had little to no snow to bury their food supplyI am not a bander, but last winter enjoyed feeding a flock of SNBU which stayed the winter. The numbers varied between 50 and 150. Most days I am counting 120 – 150 this season. But, they have not needed my feed! They are finding plenty in the fields. A friend of mine, located about 15 miles east of here, reports that while normally at this time of year he has 50 – 100 SNBU coming to feed on his driveway, this season none have yet appeared. I am curious to learn if Bruce and Joanne have been able to attract any to their traps up in the New Liskeard area, where too, farmers had to abandon crops still in the field. I am excited to learn that some Banders will be using an additional colored band for SNBU. I will be watching for these to show up at my farm – last season I had a high count of 3 banded SNBU, but had no way to know from which station they had come. Hope everyone (to use Rick’s phrase) has a Buntingful Christmas!

Lori, Chisholm Township

 (December 9th)

While I have seen snow buntings around my area recently, they have yet to appear at my feeders this year. Will let you know when they show up !

Lise Balthazar, Lanark, Ontario

 (December 9th)

We have no Snow Buntings anywhere near my site in Arthur. However, I have lots of reports of fairly large flocks in the Port Elgin area, perhaps 60 km (?) north of my site…… David

 David Lamble, Arthur

 (December 8th)

There are many flocks of SNBU roaming restlessly around Bruce County but not staying in any one place for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. The last of the corn is being harvested before the snow comes and there is a lot of food available everywhere.

Cindy, Bruce County


 (December 9th)

Today on the Royal Road, near Fredericton and Stanley, I saw a small group of about 15 SNBU on the road picking up grit.  Time to go see the farm I usually band them at.

Dorothy, Fredericton


 (December 12th)

Once again we will have three sites running in southern quebec this winter. Mirabel will be run by Liette Fortier and Richard Beauchamp with the help of volunteers from the COMIR, Simon Duval will run the site in St-Roch with the help of volunteers from the CORDEM and Coteau-du-lac will be run by Gay Gruner, Lisa Keelty and Alison Hackney with the help of local volunteers. Now for the buntings news:

(Mirabel) Mirabel got a head start from Nov 19 to 22 when 66 SNBU were banded including 13 females. This is a really high percentage for this site as we generally average about 5% females. (Benoît Gendreau in Berthier also had this same phenomenon at his banding site in previous years, with a much higher percentage of females early in the season). From Dec 4 to Dec 13, only small flocks have been seen in the area and only 13 SNBU were banded bringing the season total to 79 SNBU.

(St-Roch) We banded at St-Roch on 4 mornings (about 1,5h each) so far this season (Dec 7, 8, 9 and 13) and the flock seems to be a constant 70-80 birds with peaks around 120-130. We managed to band 140 SNBU so far there, with again an above average percentage of females.

(Coteau-du-lac) Coteau-du-lac has been our most diverse site so far this season. From Dec 11 to 13, we managed to band 28 SNBU, 17 HOLA and 6 LALO. Birds have just showed up recently there so we’re hopeful that the totals will rise quickly.

So far, our three teams have banded 247 SNBU since the start of the season, maybe we can double that until the end of December?!? These birds are heading south fast, they will be around your traps very soon.

Simon Duval, Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan

 (December 9th)

Je suis encore là…..but the Snow buntings have yet to show up.  Saw one small flock in compton a couple of weeks ago, but nothing since.

Carl Bromwich, Barnston-Ouest, Eastern Townships

(December 13th)

I am still baiting 2 sites in Rimouski area (one in the highlands of Sainte-Luce, one by the water) and Ludovic Jolicoeur is baiting in his backyard in Le Bic as well. We are waiting… Snow Buntings found the corn in the highlands last week though. I had never seen a larger flock as this one before and counted about 600 birds. They just seem really happy with the abundant natural food source around, and only visit the corn for a few seconds at a time…There was a big snow storm at the end of last week but then again rain and warm weather cleared fields of snow yesterday. None were around this morning.

Marie-Pier Laplante, Rimouski area, QC


Site in the Highlands in Ste-Luce, QC. Photo : MP Laplante


It was warm, foggy and rainy this morning in bunting-land, Sainte-Luce, QC


(December 11th)

We’ve had some unseasonably warm winter weather, so there have been no sightings of Snow buntings since observations of a few birds moving through in October.

Vicki Piaskowski, Hartland, WI

AND some special SNBU news from Rick (!) :

 (December 8th)

It was a rare lovely day at sea: low winds, a long, gentle swell, and blue skies. There were also a good number of birds to count (if not a lot of variety). But the best and most interesting one was a Snow Bunting. It passed the ship heading west; at the time we were sitting 28 nautical miles due east of Cape Freels (the closest land) on the north side of Bonavista Bay.  What the heck was it doing out there!? Had it been blown offshore by the recent storm? Or was it completing a long migratory flight from Greenland? Either way it was a delight to see.

Rick, at sea

*** Don’t forget to send me your next updates by December 27th for the December 28th post. Thanks!

One thought on “Cross-Country (SNBU) Checkup- December 14th- An early and busy start for the Southern Québec banding teams!

  1. Just a quick note to say that the SNBU have shown up in Barnston-Ouest, Quebec. There’s a flock of 40 eating cracked corn at my Feederwatch site.

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