January 12th & 13th – A Surprise and an Even Bigger Surprise

Yesterday, the 12th, I was all set for a REALLY big day. We had just received ~15 cm of fresh snow and it was cold. Great weather to bring Snow Buntings into the baited traps. But for reasons that are obscure to me, buntings were few and far between. Occasionally a small flock would descend to check things out and we’d get a few of them but…..there were not many around. I was really surprised!
Today, the 13th, was a gorgeous Winter day – cold and crisp with sunny, blue skies. Nancy had arrived early to set out the traps and renew the bait piles. By the time I rolled in an hour later there were all kinds of birds in the field, either directly around the traps or sitting at a distance waiting their turn. Every time we took birds from the traps, others were quick to take their place as soon as our backs were turned. This was very pleasant but was not the “bigger surprise”. This was the recapture of a female Snow Bunting that we had caught and banded a year ago at our site on the Sandusk Road (which is about 15 km away as the bunting flies). We had banded it as a SY-F (Second-year Female) on January 9th, 2010. The reason that this is so special is that it is extremely rare to recapture a bunting in its Winter range from one year to the next. Although I’m looking into it, I’m not aware of this happening before with other banders. At the least, it suggests that some birds are philopatric to their Winter range.

January 12th: Banded 18 Snow Buntings, 2 Horned Larks, 10 Lapland Longspurs

January 13th: Banded 45 Snow Buntings, 1 Horned Lark, 9 Lapland Longspurs


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