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!