February 12th – Whiteout Conditions

I arrived at the bait site early in the morning, putting the corn out to initially start feeding them for the day. I had to leave for an hour and when I returned the corn was buried. With the strong winds and the light snowfall overnight, the snow was blowing across the open fields. With the blowing snow I wondered if it would be worth putting the traps out but I decided to give it a try. There was a flock of ~175 plus Snowbuntings, mixed with Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs at the bait site, quickly moving inside the traps to feed. I was questioning my decision to stay and band. The wind was blowing so strong, the van was rocking and the whiteout conditions were hiding everything around me – you couldn’t see the traps or any traffic on the road. These conditions continued all morning, the wind never eased and the blowing snow challenged everything.

Well, despite these challenges I stayed and banded and I’m glad I did. I had the pleasure of having Eric Beaur arrive and share the morning with me. It was great having his help and seeing his enjoyment of working with Snow Buntings depsite the cold, windy conditions and eventually the loss of feeling in his toes. Also, the Hamilton Naturalist Group stopped by and I was happy to be a part of their Haldimand Hawk and Owl Field Trip. When they arrived around noon, the windy / whiteout conditions continued. Despite that, we took what shelter we could behind the van and it was great showing them a Snow Bunting and a Lapland Longspur and talking with them about the Snow Bunting project. Within the group that braved the conditions to stand outside while I talked it was great to see some familiar faces and friends.

The snow continued to get deeper at the bait site and trying to clear the tunnels was becoming impossible. The traps were being buried and there was nowhere to clear the snow without spreading the corn outside of the traps. Lots of birds to band but no access to the corn in the traps. Despite the blowing snow and the race to keep the tunnels/ traps clear a total number of 71 birds were banded and 43 birds were retrapped.

Banded 71: 70 Snow Buntings, 1 Lapland Longspur

Retrapped 43: 36 Snow Buntings ( two birds banded in different locations), 7 Lapland Longspurs


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