February 21st – So…Where Did They Go?

As I mentioned in the last posting, there have been NO Snow Buntings around. The warm weather and rain ate up a great deal of the snow leaving fields bare or mostly bare. Regular checks at the banding site have not turned up any sightings and I have taken several drives around the rural roads in the area searching but always in vain. As late as yesterday afternoon at 4:00 when Nancy checked the bait site, there were no buntings present (nor Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs). So I ask you: where did the 200-250 birds, that were at the trap site this morning, come from?

The snow started last night around 8:30 and it snowed fairly regularly all night and through the morning. And when it wasn’t snowing, the strong NE winds were blowing what had fallen across the fields and roads. When Nancy arrived at the site this morning she found a mixed flock of about 30 birds but this number grew very quickly as soon as she put out the traps and refreshed the bait piles. On my drive there about half an hour later I didn’t see any birds in any of the many fields I passed. The birds in this flock had come to this specific spot. Where had they been in the intervening days? And how did they know about this site? We trapped only one already-banded Snow Bunting – a young female that we had banded in early January. Would she have influenced the movement of this flock? Doubtful. The more you find out about these magnificent little birds the more questions that are raised.

The flock spent its time split between 2 spots: when resting, the birds hunkered down at the north end of the field, protected marginally by a roadside snow bank and a line of shrubs. Then, they would burst into the air where the wind would catch them and seemingly hurl them across the field like so many leaves until they’d had enough, at which point they would turn into it and fly against the grain to the trap site. There they would congregate around the traps frenetically picking up every available piece of corn they spied until, sated for the moment, they flew back to the field edge to rest.

Banded 53 Snow Buntings, 2 Horned Larks, 5 Lapland Longspurs

Retrapped 1 Snow Bunting, 6 Lapland Longspurs


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