Yesterday (the 22nd) we had great conditions for catching Snow Buntings: a heavy snowfall in the preceding two days, cold temperatures and an even colder wind. Nancy got to the site early and set out traps and bait and was into the banding before I managed to arrive (highschool volleyball is almost over…). When I did, the traps were full and we got into full gear. We were helped in this regard by the arrival of Liz Vanderwoude, scribe extraordinaire, which allowed both Nancy and I to process birds simultaneously. We worked steadily through to 12:30 at which time the flocks began to thin out. Good thing as Liz had to go and I had to coach. Nancy decided to continue and went through another 50 birds before calling it quits around 3:00. She noted that around 2:00 the birds virtually disappeared except for a few stragglers. I found this sort of interesting as I felt that the birds were acting throughout the morning as though they were getting ready for a big flight – very much like shorebirds I’ve watched on the East Coast. They’d come in (300 strong), alight, take the odd peck at the corn and then take off and do a big circular flight before alighting again. Something was up.
What was up I discovered this morning. I figured that with cold overnight temperatures but with a forecast of warmer weather I would have to arrive early to entice birds to the traps. I got there before 7:15 – just before the sun broke the horizon – but found only about 30 birds in the vicinity despite a temperature of -13 C. And these weren’t overly interested in feeding at the expense of figuring out the traps. All morning I would have small grouping of buntings drop in to inspect the corn/traps but take off shortly thereafter. A look around the neighbouring fields showed a fair amount of exposed land – especially in the ploughed corn stubble field across the road. There, most of the clods were showing through the snow and the birds seemed very interested in checking them out for tasty morsels. After 3 and half hours with very little return we decided to pack it in.
Snow Buntings aside….what a beautiful day it was. Early, I had a half moon overlooking an orange sunrise. When the sun got up, you could begin to feel its heat and the lack of wind made it feel a lot warmer than the measured -3. Brilliant blue skies and white, snow-covered fields…..makes you start thinking about Spring and the migration. Speaking of which…Nancy reported seeing 3 Turkey Vultures and a flock of Snow Geeses over her house on Dry Lake Road. Things are on the move. Get ready!
February 22nd: Banded 173 Snow Buntings, 3 Horned Larks, 9 Lapland Longspurs
February 23rd: Banded 5 Snow Buntings