Cross Country Snow Bunting Checkup – Feb 17 – 22

Hello folks! Another update on SNBUs across Canada (and into the states just a bit). First, an update from Dr. Oliver Love, and then updates from across the country:

University of Windsor Bunting Researchers, Bird Studies Canada and CSBN Bander Team up to Deploy Tracking Devices on Buntings

Fantastic news this past week coming from our winter snow bunting work in South Western Ontario. MITACS-funded snow bunting post-doc Dr. Emily McKinnon from Dr. Oliver Love’s lab at the University of Windsor travelled up to Bird Studies Canada to work with Stu Mackenzie, Love Lab manager Chris Harris and CSBN bander David Okines to deploy 20 avian Nano-tags on buntings caught at David’s St. Williams’ banding site. The digital tags are already being picked up by antennas within the MOTUS network, and we are hoping to use the fine-scale, real-time data to assess individual movement patterns across the winter in response to changes in weather. The Love Lab is working with the MOTUS network to deploy five new towers along the Saint Lawrence river in Québec, as well as in Newfoundland and Labrador. We hope to use these towers to look at the timing of spring migration in our SW Ontario birds as they travel over to Western Greenland to breed.

If CSBN banders capture any birds outfitted with the Nano-tags (worn as a small back-pack with an antenna wire down the back and out along the tail), please process the birds as usual, taking special note of the band and please check the harness around the legs to report to the Love Lab ( whether the tag is sitting well on the bird.
Oliver P. Love
Associate Professor
Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology
Biological Sciences and Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER)
University of Windsor
401 Sunset Avenue
Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9B 3P4


Updates from Quebec

Richelieu Valley, QC – Dominique Dufault – Feb 22
Here in southern Quebec Richelieu valley the conditions have been poor and SNBUs have been absent from my banding site all winter. The shallow snowpack in the fields and alternating temperatures between warm and subfreezing probably kept them further north.
Rimouski, QC – Marie-Pier Laplante – Feb 22
Not much more to report since the last post on my side. As a whole, the conditions were so poor in the last weeks for buntings and banding… I went out a couple times and banded 15 more birds (only 65 birds total so far this year). Even here in Rimouski, we are having a super warm winter with barely no snow, and birds are not present in big numbers at the bait. It actually rained this week-end!
Hopefully some snow will fall in March!
Berthier-sur-mer, QC – Benoit Gendreau – Feb 19
There’s many SNBU at my baiting site (beetween 75 and 300 depends on the weather). I dont have many time to band… I only band 52 SNBU and 1 LALO. Total for the year: 66 SNBU, 1 LALO.
À bientôt,
Benoit Gendreau

Eastern Townships, QC – Carl Bromwich – Feb 17
Here in the Eastern Townships of southern Quebec things have been VERY quiet. I haven’t seen anything since early January….not at my site and not during my daily travels, this notwithstanding some reasonalble snow coverage….which completely disappeared yesterday. I`m not holding my breath for the SNBU to hsow up here this year.

Carl Bromwich


Updates from Ontario

Joanne Goddard – Temiskaming, ON – Feb 23
Really nothing much happening here Jeff. Tons of snow, but few birds. On occasion we see a dozen or so around our site. We have tried setting our traps a few times without any luck. We have so much snow that it is difficult to wade through it to put out corn. I am wondering if the snow depth has covered all available feed in the surrounding fields making the birds stay south?? No one is reporting any major flocks in the area at all. Perhaps we will get lucky when the birds start their journey back north.
Ruthven Park Banding, Haldimand County, ON – Nancy Furber & Nicole Richardson – Feb 21
By the end of January, unseasonably warm temperatures had brought the Snow Bunting banding in Southern Ontario to a halt. The warm weather continued into the month of February and on everyone’s mind was “Would the snow and cold return?” and until it did, it was a time of waiting and hoping ….
Finally, on February 10th, the weather changed and overnight, the temperatures dropped and our area received a couple centimeters of snow. The next day, it continued to blow and snow and I anticipated the return of some Snow Buntings to the bait site. That very day, after putting some corn down at the site I waited and I wasn’t disappointed. I returned within the hour to find the Snow Buntings feeding, the birds were back! For the next eight days, the team resumed the Snow Bunting banding program with successful results.
The banding totals to date include: 851 Snow Buntings (F- 468, M- 383), 92 Horned Larks, and 30 Lapland Longspurs. We’ve also handled a number of foreign retraps, plus some of ‘our’ birds returning from previous years. One of our oldest retrap Snow Buntings was a bird banded with an auxiliary band as a SY F on February 10, 2013.
As I’m writing this post, the warmer weather has returned and the snow is gone along with the chances of banding more Snow Buntings.
Nancy Furber

And, from Nicole Richardson:

I was out at the Snow Bunting site on Duxbury Road with Nancy for a great day yesterday. We had a nice adult male Northern Harrier come in to investigate the traps, an once we’d taken the birds out he came back to check them out again, flying around and allowing me some good photo opportunities!


IMG_0589 IMG_0633 IMG_0637 IMG_0651
Fergus ,ON – David Lamble – Feb 19
I have opened a second site and hop back and forth between the two of them. My old site is still producing an overwhelming number of males (95% of the birds are male). While the new site is producing about 30 % females. The new site is also producing record numbers of Lapland Longspurs ( done 51 so far this year….. my previous yearly record is 33). The new site is about 35 km SW of the old site, which is near Arthur. I have done just a little over 2 000 Snow Buntings this year………. a dismal year compared to my 7000 last year…….. oh well…………… David
King City, ON – Glenn and Theresa – Feb 17
This week we banded 220 SNBU and 26 HOLA the birds started showing up a week ago and the numbers picked up all week , really noticed more birds after the big snow storm hit Ottawa there was a flock of about 200 at site A and 150 at site B this morning and they stayed all day so i hope they are going to hang around. Did not band any as our furnace broke and had to stay home and watch them fix it, today looked like the best day of the season so hopefully all catch some tomorrow. Also we got two return HOLA that we banded in 2014 and a bird banded by somebody else 2561-25623 Yesterday.

Also seen the first NOSH of the season on the trap and also a Raven siting on the trap this week .

Regards Glenn and Theresa

St. Williams, ON – David Okines – Feb 17
Hi Jeff,
there are now lots of SNBU near St. Williams due to us finally getting some much needed snow, my totals for the season are now at 694 SNBU and 19 LALO. Best days for SNBU were the 12th with 198 and the 16th with 227.

Two foriegn birds, both SNBU and both on the 16th Feb, were 2421-90918 and 2711-28183

Emily McKinnon, Dr Love and I have deployed 20 SNBU here with Motus network, backpack type, tag transmitters – 5 SY-M, 5 SY-F, 8 ASY-F and 2 ASY-M, we didn’t quite get the 5-5-5-5 split, the other 3 ASY-M kept going round the trap but not in it but it was nice to get them all deployed in one day.

Everyone, please keep an eye out for these birds but please don’t take the transmitters off.

David Okines
St Williams

Lanark, ON – Lise Balthazar – Feb 17
We still have about 100 Snow Buntings on our property, feeding on millet and giving us beautiful aerial displays!

I’m sending a few recent pictures.

Update later on Feb 17: I would like to revise that number of Snow Buntings from my last report.
We received about 50 cm. of snow on Tuesday, and that seemed to bring back the Buntings! We now have about 200 of them.

Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids
Lanark, Ontario




Updates from elsewhere on the continent

Hartland, WI – Vicki Piakowski – Feb 18
We have relatively good snow cover and as a result 100+ Snow buntings at our Belgium site feeding on the bait. They had disappeared for a few weeks. We will try again to band early next week. Unfortunately, we are due for warm weather and rain, which may cause the birds to leave. To date we have not had success with capturing and banding birds.
Vicki Piaskowski
Hartland, WI

Stewiacke, NS – Barb McLaughlin – Feb 17
We have about 250 coming to a spot daily to where we are putting out cracked corn/seed for the pheasants. In the Stewiacke, Nova Scotia area.

One thought on “Cross Country Snow Bunting Checkup – Feb 17 – 22

  1. Hi Lise Balthazar,
    I am living in Ottawa and started recently to band snow bunting near Richmond, 35 min SW of Ottawa. Is there anybody banding the birds at your place? I would be willing to go open my traps if that interest you!


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