December 12th – Cross Country (SNBU) Checkup

Showing a Lapland Longspur to a junior grade student - obvious delight!      -J. Goddard

Showing a Lapland Longspur to a junior grade student – obvious delight! -J. Goddard

Last week’s Arctic blast that traversed the country got me thinking about Snow Buntings…and just where they might be. So I put out a call to members of the Canadian Snow Bunting Network to get their observations and here are their responses, which have been trickling in all week. I was particularly struck by Shane Roersma’s comment that his area of Alberta had been the coldest place on the planet for a day or so!

The last couple of days here in southern Ontario have been cold (well….cold for southern Ontario at minus 12) and snow is called for over the weekend. So we just may get lucky…….

Prairie Provinces

Hey Rick,
Up here in Peace River Alberta it has been very cold until today -5c, I have seen a lot of SNBU’s and a few HOLA’s. There is next to no snow cover so I’m having issues attracting birds to come into traps. Wish I had the invasion of SNOW’s this winter like the east, sitting at 10 SNOW’s so far this winter.
Mike Blom
Peace Region Raptor Study

Hi Rick,
We have been hit hard by winter here in southern Alberta – experiencing extreme temperatures, heavy snowfall and windy conditions. We were actually the coldest place on the planet a few days ago! [emphasis by editor] I have yet to spot any flocks of the 3 focal species, but have not had much chance to scout for them. The Christmas break is coming up and we’ll be out looking. Best of luck.
Shane Roersma

Hi Rick,
We have about 18 inches of snow here in east central Saskatchewan. The snow came in late October and has only settled a bit. I am not seeing many SNBU. The small flocks of 20 or less are not consistently in any area so I have not attempted any baiting yet. I will keep you posted if things change. Merry Christmas to all.
Bert Dalziel
Love, Saskatchewan

In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan we have plenty of snow – and bitter cold. There are quite a few SNBUs in the area, but they don’t seem to stay in one place and are just about impossible to lure to a feeding area. This is the 3rd year I’ve tried – still have to capture my first bird.
Harold Fisher
Nisbet Banding Station,
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

53-17-11N, 105-39-15W

Hi Rick.
Snow almost 2 feet deep in most fields. Snow Buntings have been coming to two piles of millet bait 300-500 at a time for several days. Will attempt to attach 60 second video taken Dec. 8/13, 1600h, -23C, strong N wind. Cold temps supposed to last until Christmas. Will try to contact your bander and set something up during the holiday break.
All the best,
Bill Maciejko
Gimli, Manitoba


Hello Rick:
Blowing snowy conditions. Accumulation of about 1 to 2 cm of snow — temperatures between -2 and -7 (wind chill maybe -10). No birds seen at my site since I last reported. Will be going to the site, tomorrow, to lay bait and wander my area looking for birds…………….. take care………….. David ( the lonely Snow Bunting bander, missing his birds)
[David Lamble
Fergus, Ontario

Good morning,
We had our first big snowfall on November 27th (approx. 10 inches) and that snow stayed on the ground for a while; but then the weather got really mild and it almost all melted. Yesterday (Dec. 9), we received about 2-3 inches of snow followed by a brief period of rain. I haven’t seen any Snow Buntings since my first sighting, several weeks ago.
Lise Balthazar
Lanark, Ontario

Hey Rick,
So I have recently moved to Lanark County, west of Ottawa, and am at least an hour from my site I used in past years so I am not currently banding there (just not enough time to get there for regular baiting etc). I have seen a few flocks in the area of Lanark Highlands, but no large numbers. If you guys are aware of anyone in Lanark County that has good flocks of birds but doesn’t band (And is interested in me banding on their property) let me know.
In the meantime I will be searching for flocks and interested parties, and once I get established I expect to be able to focus on the site for many years (since I have no plans on moving in the near future.
Take Care,
Fergus Nicoll

Hello from windy, cold, but practically snowless East Harrow (a Holiday Beach Migration Observatory station).
Currently there is only about 1″ of snow here. No banding has occurred here yet this season. No SNBU, HOLA or LALO around yet (here). Although we did see 1 lone SNBU foraging at the edge of a field about halfway between LaSalle (close to Windsor) and Harrow on Saturday, December 7.
Like everyone else, we are awaiting a good dump of snow which will hopefully bring the birds south to us.
Caroline S., and Bob Hall-Brooks
East Harrow, ON

Hi rick
At Long Point on the weekend, no snow. In Cambridge we got snow on Sunday night possibly 1- 2 inches. It was bare before then. Have not seen any SNBU.
Bill Read

[December 10th]
We had over a foot of snow on the ground before the thunderstorms washed it away last week. Now it is coming back (snow squalls at the moment) but most is in drifts along edges of fields due to high winds.
Thousands of SNBU roving restlessly around the county but never in the same place two days in a row. Corn being harvested has left a lot on the ground everywhere. No LALO or HOLA.
OAT – I have 25 SNBU on my grassland surveys so far, and still have 3 more to do.
Cindy Cartwright

Bruce Region

[December 8th]
hi rick
No buntings this weekend it was super sunny and we find that when it is sunny that the birds seem to find food elsewhere do have any theories on that maybe it is just a northern thing. We banded just under 300 sawhets and 18 boreals and yes last year was a peak in both sawwhet and boreal numbers. I will send some photo’s of joannes kids in another post she is hoping to band at her school tomorrow but i know sometimes you do a sunday updates
Bruce Murphy
Temiskaming Shores

Kerns students putting out the traps to start the season.      -J. Goddard

Kerns students putting out the traps to start the season. -J. Goddard

Next comes the bait - cut corn.    -J. Goddard

Next comes the bait – cut corn. -J. Goddard

[December 9th]
Hi rick
Hopefully we will get the cloud cover and snow predicted for tomorrow and the Kerns kids will have the first buntings of the season. They have a flock of buntings and longspurs that are visiting the corn .The flock seems to be over a hundred but when we went to put out corn the flock was a fraction of that due to the clear sky and bright sun. When we have photo’s of birds we will send them along . All the best to everyone this season.
Bruce Murphy
Temiskaming Shores

[December 10th]
Hi Rick:
Joanne’s [Goddard] class will be sending you a blog tomorrow sometime; they are going to be banding again tomorrow so i am not sure what time it will arive…..but they started today and were able to band 8 lalo and 5 snbu. Interestingly 4 of the snbu were females suggesting that they do arrive first. We often do not get very many females up here and usually start a little later . While there are some big flocks in our area we have only been able to attract a couple of hundred to feed so hopefully with the fresh snow recently arrived we will have more attention to the corn. Thanks rick and all the best to you and banders across the country. Joanne and the awesome kids form Kerns public will have more news tomorrow. Buntings makes winter fun!!!
Bruce Murphy
Temiskaming Shores

First catches of the year.    -J. Goddard

First catches of the year. -J. Goddard

Kerns Public School students learning about Snow Buntings.     -J. Goddard

Kerns Public School students learning about Snow Buntings. -J. Goddard

[December 10th]
Hi Rick,
I know I was supposed to have a student send you a blog today to go with the pictures Murph sent yesterday, but my day went a little sideways so it didn’t happen. Sorry!
Basically on Friday last week a few of the kids took the traps out to the site so they would be ready to start banding on Monday. We had been watching a flock of birds slowly grow over the past week and a group of about 100 birds seemed to be fairly committed to the corn we had been leaving. We noticed quite a large percentage of the flock were LALO so that was exciting. Over the weekend it was cold and very sunny and the birds seemed very scarce at all our banding locations so I was encouraged when I awoke to a mild snowy Monday morning. We noticed last year that our best banding days were usually the snowy ones.
The class was only able to do a couple of trap checks on Monday morning but in the end we were able to band five snow buntings, four of which were female, and eight HY Lapland longspurs, six males and two females. Today was a much colder day and to quote David, one of my veteran birders, “it was so cold my snot froze in a snotcicle!” Despite the clear -18 morning, we had a decent flock of mostly LALO visit the trap. Unfortunately a Northern Shrike became very interested in our operation and we had to close up for the day after banding only nine LALO, this time all males, and not a one SNBU, although there were lots hanging around. We are hopeful the Shrike will move on so we can resume banding soon. We plan to get out with a group of students on Saturday, hopefully we will have some big numbers for you soon. The Kerns kids were able to band 900 birds last season and although their real goal is to beat David Lamble, they will realistically be happy with banding 1000!
Joanne Goddard and the Kerns Crew
Temiskaming Shores

Extracting from a pretty interesting-looking trap array.       -J. Goddard

Extracting from a pretty interesting-looking trap array. -J. Goddard


Hi Rick,
Two weeks ago here in the Richelieu river valley, 2 flocks of 30-40 SNBU were seen repeatedly at the bait for a couple days. The weather got mild and none have been seen since then. Now, there is a 15-20 snow cover and the temperature will drop below -15C this week-end. I did not have the time to get the pliers out yet, but considering the weather system that is building up, I will probably give it a try on saturday or sunday.
Dominique Dufault

Hi Rick
In the Rimouski area, the first snow almost melted down last week with a rainy period. Now it has been snowing for the last 2 days and the fields are finally getting whiter.
Scattered snow bunting flocks can be seen occasionally around my place.
I still will have the same problem, i.e. having only week-ends to work on SNBU banding during daylight… And it seems I may not be able to retire that soon.
Charles Maisonneuve

At Berthier-sur-Mer, 40 km east of Quebec city on the south shore of St-Lawrence river, I have seen a lots of SNBU during the fall (october and november). When the snow cover appear, the number of SNBU have decreased throughout december. I have seen a few SNBU and HOLA this morning but nothing to put the trap outside. They are localised where they can find food (place without snow cover)
If the SNBU start showing up rapidly at the bait, I will start banding in few days.
à bientôt,
Benoit Gendreau
Biologiste, chargé de projet à la CDEMM

Hi Rick,
Here in southern Quebec we didn’t get much weather. I saw a flock a couple of weeks ago and counted one individual at my feederwatch site the weekend before last. In the meantime, we lost all our snow and then regained a scant couple of centimetres yesterday. I’m keeping my eyes open!
Carl Bromwich
Near the Vermont border, south of Sherbrooke….the beautiful Eastern Townships. Barnston-Ouest to be exact.

Maritime Provinces

[December 10th]
Snow just started today on the shores of the bay of Fundy, no birds of yet.
Stephen Burrows

Hi Rick,
Dorothy Diamond here in NB. We have had a week or more of snow, but then heavy rain took that away, and now it is cold again with a few cm of snow on the ground. The SNBUs are at the local farm in very small numbers, and I have not yet started to band. I think I saw a flock of 10 in my back field about 2 weeks ago, feeding on weed seeds. I’ll let you know when we start banding. Christmas Bird Count in our area is Dec. 14th.
Dorothy Diamond
New Brunswick

I did see a flock of about 10 here in Gros Morne [Natinal Park] on the weekend, but
they’re always pretty hard to come by here until spring migration.
Attaching a nice picture of a Juvenile I took at Cirque Mountain in Torngat
Mountains National Park this summer.
darroch whitaker

A recently fledged juvenile on Cirque Mountain, Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador.    - D. Whitaker

A recently fledged juvenile on Cirque Mountain, Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador. – D. Whitaker

Hi Rick:
No Snow buntings here yet, but we just had a lot of snow so hopefully they’ll show up soon.
Thank you,
Vicki Piaskowski
Hartland, WI

Hi Rick:
Conditions here in Hartland, WI are cold with about 5-6 inches of snow on the ground. The forecast for the upcoming week is continued below average temperatures and snow on most days. So far I haven’t seen any birds, but will continue looking, as these conditions will hopefully bring them in.
Vicki Piaskowski
Hartland, WI

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