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.]

Snow Bunting Update: Retraps!

Hey folks, here are a few updates I received recently. I’ll start with reports that highlights unclaimed retraps (in bold, below).

From David Hussell – Southern ON:

Andrew trapped on Long Point beach again yesterday and got 3 more recaps. Two of them were banded by David and Martin. One remains unidentified: 2421-83541.

The other unidentified one, reported earlier, is: 2531-18590.


Theresa & Glenn – King Township, ON
Feb 9:

Hi Jeff
Theresa and I have captured a foreign recap 2531-19155 in King City On .


Feb 6:

Hi Jeff

We caught two foreign recaps today. 2571-17121, an ASY F is one of Joanne Goddards from the Kerns school site in Temiskaming, banded Jan 2013 as an SY. The other one, 2661 –34465, an ASY M is not in the banding lab dbase yet. We would love to hear who can claim it.


Theresa & Glenn

Feb 3:

The flock sizes of 80-150 of Dec/early Jan.shrunk to much smaller ones when the previous warm spell hit and did not climb again until today (Feb 3) when the largest flock count for the day was again 80. These birds were hungry, and Glenn banded 60.. We’ve had a heavy snow cover since late Sat.

We have a tiny flock of between 6-15 that appear to be regulars, less flighty around the traps than the larger groups but this small group have also learned that the corn will be available after the traps are removed, and not very inclined to enter. They peck around the edges, seeming to get invisible specks, when we think we have been very careful to make sure the corn is inaccessible without entering. They are waiting for Glenn to arrive with corn the morning after a snowfall. One of these though, an SY M, has become “trap happy”, with multiple recaptures. When you stick your hand in the trap and get an immediate bite, you know it’s #83370 again!

Interestingly, when a slightly larger flock of 50 came in Feb 2, this same bird was with them, and caught twice that day. We think we have him to thank for leading 20 other birds into the traps. This flock was very skittish. Similar to earlier experiences this year, they will come down, then very quickly up, circle the field, return to the baited area, and repeat several times before settling for a while. Once they do settle, several will enter the traps, but as soon as those individuals realize they are trapped, the rest of the flock leaves and often does not return that day. .

On many days we have banded more birds than we counted at any point in time. The overall impression is of a much larger flock that ranges over some larger area, splitting into groups to search for food, (and presumably investigate the status of previously visited food sources), assembling with other subgroups at points with some leading others to what they have found.

Presumably the experienced SNBU banders are aware of this but we have not seen it mentioned. Does everyone see a number of birds with undigested food (in our case cracked corn) stored under the skin of the hindneck? This is not fat, though we also see fat deposits in the same area, but a bulge of clearly visible corn, as in the photo. We’d love to understand more about this, i.e. how they get it in there, and later how they access it to eat/digest. It seems a great adaptation for a wide-ranging bird accessing spotty food sources in the winter to be able to take some along.
To date we have banded 407 SNBU, 78%M, 77% HY/SY, 24 RECAPS, 2 FOREIGN, and 2 LALO

I am also including a photo of the “SNBU jail” . This carrying box is a relief for cold hands when 22 birds are caught at once and the temperature is -20!

Hope everyone is enjoying these fascinating birds as much as we are!

Theresa McKenzie

Crop extending to back of the neck?

SNBU jail

Marie-Pier Laplante – Cookshire-Eaton, Eastern Townships, Qc
Feb 3:

Hi all, the first flock of the season showed up to feed in the orchard at my place in Cookshire-Eaton, Eastern Townships-Qc, on January 27th. The group, whose numbers now fluctuate between 30-50 birds, stayed for 3 days and then left with the warm weather of last week. Yet, this morning, the birds were back again and I banded the 3rd bird for this site today (Feb 3rd). I will try again tomorrow.


Feb 8:

Hello again,
The group of buntings at my place in Cookshire-Eaton is still feeding daily in the orchard. There were 42 birds today (Feb 8th), which is the most I had since the 29th of January.
I’m at 14 birds banded so far (11 males / 3 females).
With a little luck, I can manage to band the whole flock, which would be interesting!
Here is some pictures of the site.




An update from the Ruthven group:
Faye Socholotiuk – Southern ON
Feb 11

We did it! Joanne, Jack and I were able to get out this afternoon to try our hand at banding buntings at the dairy farm. We were a little uncertain as to how it would go given all the silage they had around to choose from and their propensity to shun all traps. After not much success around the silage in the driveway (aside from a very amenable horned lark that wandered in) we decided to put the trap up on the berms of food that are in storage. We had put a large pile on top of the tarps where the birds sit in large flocks on Sunday afternoon, and Jack baited it again yesterday. Within minutes we had 5 in the trap. Not long after we pulled them out (like 2 minutes!) there were another 5! Unfortunately by this time we were losing day light so had to call it quits, but we figured 10 SNBU’s and 1 HOLA was pretty good for our first try!

And! To top things off we had a recap! Not only that, but it’s one of the ones with the double bands! We decided we weren’t too sure how useful the extra band was as we had great difficulty reading it. You can see Joanne trying to use the binoculars as a magnifying glass!

Anyway, the recap number is: 266188608

Another interesting side story was that we encountered a merganser hanging out in between the berms (see the black spot in the last picture). Not sure what it was doing… but with some motivation from Jack it flew off.

We’re planning to try again tomorrow to see what we can get. I’m not sure they’ll be here long.



Joanne inspecting the unreadable extra band.

Joanne inspecting the unreadable extra band.



Two Bands!

Two Bands!



Retrap card

Retrap card

Confused Merganser?

Confused Merganser?

Finally, a few pictures shared by Holiday Beach Migration Observatory:

An After-Second-Year (ASY) Male Snow Bunting (Photo by Paul D. Pratt)

An After-Second-Year (ASY) Male Snow Bunting (Photo by Paul D. Pratt)

An After-Second-Year (ASY) Male Snow Bunting (Photo by Paul D. Pratt)

An After-Second-Year (ASY) Male Snow Bunting (Photo by Paul D. Pratt)

Second-year Male Snow Bunting (by HBMO)

Second-year Male Snow Bunting (by HBMO)

SNBU recapture

Hello CSBN members,

I plan to do a “Cross-country checkup” sometime soon, so please send along any updates that should be posted.

I received an email from Caroline S this evening requesting that I share info about a recapture. I don’t have the email list for the CSBN, so here is the information. Hopefully the right people will see it! Please email me using the address Rick shared with you if you want to claim this band, or just provide an update.

Hi Jeff.  I’m part of the CSBN, at the E. Harrow station of Holiday Beach Migration Observatory, in southwestern Ontario.

Today we had our first recap of the year, a band # I do not recognize.  Does anyone claim this band #2571-37426?  It was a SY female.  Please let me know if you find out who banded it and where.

Many thanks,

C.D. S

-Jeff MacLeod