January 11th – Is There Something In The Water?

We had another fairly busy time with Snow Buntings again today. But during the few lulls in the action I mulled over a significant difference between this year’s bunting experience versus last year’s. For us, Snow Bunting banding entails a lot of sitting in one’s vehicle on the shoulder of a road waiting for the birds to enter the traps which are baited out in a field. We’re very visible and lots of people driving by give us a good looking over. Last year we had a few people stop and ask what we were up to. Some (I’d say a majority) were pleasant and interested. But there were a good number that weren’t – some even hostile. We had a very unpleasantly memorable run-in with OPP officers who pulled up in two separate cars at the same time, demanded (without even asking what we were doing) that I get out of the car; one sternly asked me a lot of questions about what I was doing while the other grilled Nancy; and they even radioed and had someone check out my story by going to Ruthven to see if I was, in fact, the chief bander there. All the while the traps were plainly visible in the field – full of birds.

This year we’ve had a ton of people stop and, in a very friendly way, ask us, first, if we were OK and then what we were doing and, when they found out, ask good questions about it all – and always with a smile on their face; they are just genuinely concerned and/or interested. And yesterday we had a police officer pull up beside us. He rolled down his window and, with a smile on his face, said: “So….what’s up?” He listened quite intently to my explanation and then went on to have a discussion with me about the reports of birds falling from the sky in Sweden and the southern U.S. And then, “Have a nice day”, as he drove off.

So how can I explain the difference? The only thing I can think of is that our main banding site last year was south of Highway 3 and this year it’s north of it. Maybe there’s something in the water the closer you get to the hydro plant and refineries…….Anyway, I must say that the current experience is a much better way to go. And if you’re driving the byways of Haldimand County and you see us parked by the roadside looking at our traps, feel free to come over and say hi.

We started catching birds shortly after I set out the traps at 8:00 AM and we were still getting them when we closed down around 2:00. Our sense was that we got more action later in the day – probably birds feeding ahead of the coming snow storm.
We banded: 71 Snow Buntings, 12 Horned Larks, and 9 Lapland Longspurs. We retrapped 24.


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