February 19th – Feels Like It Should Be Spring

My back yard is completely green. I can see a very few small remnant patches of snow in the distant farm fields – but they’re in stark contrast to (and set off by) the large expanses of brown plowed land. And the Grand River is wide open, without a speck of ice even extending out from shore in the eddies. I have never seen the river like this before in mid-February.

At Ruthven yesterday the male Common Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers were displaying; the Mallards and many Canada Geese were paired up; a pair of Eastern Bluebirds were checking out the nest boxes; Northern Cardinals and House Finches and a Song Sparrow were singing. I even got a rare glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker (I’m sure they nest back in the slough forest but you don’t often see them) and a Cooper’s Hawk.

I know it’s early but it just looks and feels like Red-winged Blackbirds and Killdeer should be arriving.

CSBN Update From the Prairies:
There hasn’t been much news from the Prairie folks but the little I’ve received suggest that they’re getting the same relatively snowless conditions we are in southern Ontario with the concomitant lack of Snow Buntings.

Male Snow Bunting in the Peace River area of Alberta. - M. Blom

Mike Blom: in the Peace River area of Alberta:
I have found a handful of SNBU’s but they don’t seem to want to come in, I just wanted to send [you] a couple pics of a single bunting I found hanging out by a trout pond up here, funny thing was it wouldn’t fly very far and there was a Northern Hawk Owl perched just above the bird, I thought it would have grabbed the bunting but I even tried to toss it a mouse and it wasn’t even interested.

- M. Blom

Mike Bartok:
I have not gotten out this year yet, mostly because there have not been many sightings this year. Seem to all be stuck up Edmonton way. Very warm winter here this year, other than a week of -30.

Rainer Ebel: Edmonton area
Some brief November (2011) sightings : Large numbers (5-8000) SNBUs were sighted by me south and east of Edmonton about 2hrs before sunset on the 16 November 2011. These birds were associated with a significant and exposed grain pile located at the edge of the grain stubble and harrowed field. Flock behaviour surrounding this feeding source, and their flight paths to and fro, feeding site and adjacent fields types suggest that this huge flock must roost nearby. A best guess is 1-1.5 km N,W and E of the grain pile but daylight was fast fading for proper estimation. We also located a small flock (100) approximately 10 km from the grain site. It would appear this grain pile site is an ideal location for setting walk-in-traps and whoosh nets. Unfortunately I was not able to revisit the site in 2012.

Also the province requires a provincial permit to trap and band birds. Once the application has been forwarded one can expect up to three months before an annual permit is issued. Those in Alberta should apply as early as possible for the fall 2012 banding. I received mine in December (joint with Beth MacCallum) which is only valid until 30 March 2012. Based on previous years of banding in the Edmonton area buntings move through in large numbers during April and early May.

Rainer Ebel
Regional CBC Editor

As far as I know no one in AB has been banding, but really I cannot say with any degree of authority. You will be best able to access that question as more information arrives your direction.
As for a picture of the grain pile, I would swear on a stack of multi denominational bibles that I took several photos of those piles; but I am damn if I can find them in iphoto. So from recollection: it is a pile of spill grain some 25 m wide at the base and 3 m high. This grain is in all likelihood the result of a good harvest; good for the grain farmers and good for the buntings moving south or residing there during the winter. Sorry but at my current location, I cannot visit the location to give you an update.
Hope this helps.

Rick, You might be interested. Will give you some idea.
I have just updated the blog: Check it outhttp://web.me.com/eckebel/Queensland_For_Barry/Welcome.html
[Rainer’s “current location” happens to be in Queensland Australia where he has been going for quite a few years now between January and April – to band. It’s a tough life sometimes…..]

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