Cross-Country (SNBU) Check-up- February 25th

Over 100 Snow Buntings Rod Potter

Photo: Rod Potter

Some very interesting news and pictures from everyone!


It has been an interesting season, for certain. The strange thing for me is the number of females. Normally about 5% of my bandings are female Snow Buntings. This year I am around 18%. I wonder if the fact that I had no Snow Buntings at my site until January 2 might be the difference. There were lots of Snow Buntings 100 km north of my site in December but none at mine. Now they are here in reasonable numbers and the lively mix of females is a pleasant surprise (despite the challenge of aging females).

The other thing of interest is the recapture rate. I normally have a few birds that I recapture multiple times but this year I have several that I have recaptured more than a dozen times after banding this year……… particularly females……… although one male recaptured on 22 different days as well as multiple times on several days, certainly holds the record. I also have 21 foreign recaptures this year……….. a good year in the past might be 3 or 4 birds. So the late arrival has certainly changed the dynamics of flock movement in my area.

With regard to the recaptures…….. there is another interesting fact. I have been banding at this site since 2008. Normally I would recapture a few birds from the year before but never birds from 2 or 3 years previous. I have now recaptured at least one bird from each of the previous year’s banding going back to 2008. Just might get a longevity record if things continue as they are. David Lamble, Fergus, Ontario

David also sent along this picture of a peculiar bird. We think this bird has gotten frostbite.










Joanne and I were able to get back to our old site from last year at the large dairy farm.  We haven’t seen the hundreds of birds that we had last year, but there were still enough around that we thought we would try to band some this weekend.  We finally had a warm spell (-5 celsius) on Sunday, so you can see we set up inside one of the open silos with our bands and data sheets.  Jack, who you see sitting on the cotton seed, is key to our operation.  He puts out the bait piles for us everyday and helps with the banding.  Usually we place the ground traps on top of the horizontal silos, so from ground level it’s difficult to see if we have anything.  From his vantage point atop the cotton seed, Jack can keep an eye on the trap for us.

photo 2

Jack checking the trap from above

photo 1

Banding setup

There are some great advantages to setting up at the farm, the primary one being that the birds are drawn there by the spilled feed, so initially we don’t have to do any baiting.  However it’s also a disadvantage in that they are wary enough of the trap that they’ll avoid the corn inside for whatever else they can find (and there are plenty of alternatives available)!  This weekend we were lucky enough to have a flock of about 100 mallards interested in the feed.  As you can see in the one picture a small number of them congregated behind the trap, pushing the buntings and larks toward the trap.  The other disadvantage of the readily available food is that it attracts all kinds of birds like starlings, pigeons, blue jays, crows, juncos etc., which then draws the attention of the Red-tails, Sharp shinned and Coopers hawks.  Thankfully the many crows alert us to when the hawks are getting too close.

We were able to get 6 SNBUs, mostly young females and 9 HOLAs.  Quite a small number compared to most locations, but for the limited time we were able to get out, we were excited!  Hopefully we can continue again this weekend. Cheers!                           Faye Socholotiuk, Hamilton area

Super cold temps here in Northern Ontario.  The students are beginning to go a little stir crazy from being kept inside for recess.  We have a small flock of anywhere between 60 and 100 birds feeding at the site right now.  I think most birds have packed up and moved to the balmy south! (Say “Hi” to our birds for us Nancy Furber!!)  My students were recalling that last year we had the same issue with super cold -40ish temperatures and very few birds, but as the winter dragged on it brought with it the birds on their return North. I believe our last banding day last year was April 17th with still lots of snow cover!  Perhaps we will see the same trend this year?  Despite the cold, we did band a few days and even took a grade 3/4 class to our trap site, we had lots of cold cheeks that day but the younger kids were super excited to see the traps and to have the chance to release the banded birds.  To date we have only banded 238 SNBU and 6 LALO, but if you have ever lived in the North, you know there is still lots of winter left!!                                  Joanne Goddard, Temiskaming area


Over here in King township, ON, we have finally broken the 1000 bird threshold for new SNBU bandings. Yesterday was a big day with 200 banded and 55 recaptures, including 3 foreign ones.  We are getting a far higher number of recaps this year versus last.  The big flock has been present consistently.   Recent foreign recaps have been multiple birds from David Lamble, 100 km to the west, one from Rick Ludkin banded last March, and one from Martin Wernaart, down near Long Point, also from last year.  We have 3 we are looking for a bander to claim:

2541-64799, an ASY F captured Feb. 10th has yet to be claimed

Feb 21th we had these three:

2571-37464 ASY F

2641-13101 AND  2641-13123, both ASY M.  I’m betting these two are David Lamble birds.

I’m attaching a photo our friend Rod Potter took to help us count just how many buntings there were in one tree.  These few branches have over 100.  The tree holds 1000 + on occasion.  It was the “leafy” look to this tree that first caught Glenn’s attention early in Feb. as he was driving by.  He returned for a closer look and found the big flock.

We hope everyone is getting some birds and enjoying February banding!                 Theresa & Glenn, King City


I am down here in a little town called Larue  Ohio.  Sort of in central Ohio.  I believe I have one of your double banded Snow Buntings. The picture of the bunting is there as well.  I had difficulty getting a number off the band.  I got a definite number 1 on top and number 2 on bottom…but there could be a 0 before the 2…it is all very faint.  I have pictures of both bands, and these numbers seemed to be the only ones that I could get of it.


double-banded bunting spending some time in the US (probably one of Nancy’s or Oliver’s bird from last year!)



During the period (Feb 9 – 22), things got slow, really slow!! One of our sites is still quite active, but we’re all anxiously waiting spring migration!!

Mirabel :   During the period, only 38 SNBU were banded in 12 mornings. The flock is quite small and doesn’t come to the bait often. During the period we did get 14 recaptures, most of them are from the last two months but at least 2 individuals from 2013 are still present.

Mirabel season total: 693 SNBU, 5 LALO and 1 HOLA

St-Roch :   During the period, 4 mornings of banding produced only 13 SNBU. The flock is now really small, (15-20). I guess the birds do not like the cold and snow so much! We did not get a single recapture during the period.

St-Roch Season total: 856 SNBU and 6 LALO

Coteau-du-lac :   During the period, Coteau was again our busiest site, banding 146 SNBU in 11 mornings. Like all the other sites, strong winds and high snow banks are making things a bit harder. The age/sex breakdown so far is:

HY/SY-F 10%

HY/SY-M 51 %



Coteau-du-lac Season total: 715 SNBU, 34 HOLA, 18 LALO and 1 SOSP. Southern Quebec Teams are now at a total of 2266 SNBU banded for the winter.                        Simon Duval, The Migration Research Foundation

Thomas Biteau has recently joined the network in QC. He is located in La Pocatière (150km East of Québec city) and has been trying hard to catch some birds! He finally had his first birds (11) banded, so that’s great!


Banding the first buntings in LaPocatière Photo: Marjolaine Hudon


And… Here in the Rimouski area, the birds have really changed behaviour in the last week!! Flocks are beginning to be a lot more conspicuous everywhere. I have spotted snow buntings everywhere I have been going! Side of the road, highway, St-Lawrence…

Last Saturday, I banded 70 birds in 3 hours trapping, which is actually more than half of what I had banded in almost 2 months!! (225 birds in total now). I also had my first foreign recap, which was super exciting! A male that was banded by Liette Fortier in Mirabel (600 km West of here) in March 2014. Hopefully, I can manage to catch some other of your birds as they move down the River in March…!


Camille banding her first snow bunting


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