January 13th – Cross Country (SNBU) Checkup

Backyard pond made up of rain water and melted snow. Grand River is in the background.

Sunday morning and I’m suffering from a bad case of Snow Bunting Blues. It has been raining hard all night and I’m looking out from my sun room window onto a big pond of snow melt and rain runoff. In the distance, the Grand River, which is usually frozen over by this time in January, is full open and running high. There isn’t a patch of snow to be seen anywhere. And for us in far southern Ontario, that means that Snow Buntings will not be around. That, my friends, is depressing……And I gather from the following letters that many of you are experiencing the same weather conditions with a concomitant lack of Snow Buntings. And I detect just a hint of the blahs as well. I’m wondering if this is a sign of what is to come – that Snow Buntings in the south will become just a distant memory: “Remember back when we used to get snow and the buntings that would come with it?” Silent Springs and Buntingless Winters….what are we doing to this planet!? [Of course, David Lamble would still be catching them even if it were the tropics….]


In southern Alberta snow has been ephemeral to say the least – fairly mild winter so far with a lot of wind. Hence no SNBU sightings as of yet. Received a good amount of snow over the last day and a half – hoping to find some birds this weekend.
Shane Roersma

No buntings here yet – still hoping for birds to gather around local stock operations, but that usually happens a little later in the winter.
Harold Fisher
Nisbet Banding Station,
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

53-17-11N, 105-39-15W


[January 10]
Hi Rick:
I had Joanne double check this for me but what are the chances of us catching one of Dave Lambles birds then he turned around and count one of our birds . We banded that snow bunting on dec 13th this past December so not sure what date it showed up in daves trap. I guess we have established a corridor between our two sites. Joanne has started to band with her grade 6 7 8 class and has had instant success with 84 buntings being banded and 11 lapland longspurs. Her grade 8’s are doing the lion share of the work and will soon be passing on their skills to the keener grade 7’s who will take their place next year. It is wonderful to see the real research they are helping out with and I was bale to spend the day with a future bander named josh as he scribed for the entire day as we banded 10 longspurs and many buntings and hoped to be the first to band a horned lark in the area. We are lucky to live where buntings do and we are seeing a few very big flocks and many flocks that seem to vary in size from day to day. We have high hopes of finally catching a horned lark which after looking at southern success has us very envious. All the best to banders across the country.
Bruce Murphy

Hi Rick,
The flock at my site near Fitzroy has slowly grown to about 130. But now with the annoying warm front and rains coming, I am not sure what will happen. I will keep you informed.
Fergus Nicoll

Good morning,
Here in Lanark, we have about 30 to 35 Snow Buntings, which is a lot less than previous years; we used to get around 150 of them. I’ve been feeding them millet and they come on a daily basis.
Lise Balthazar
Sheridan Rapids Road

Hi everyone,
I just wanted to add some details to my report.
Here in Lanark, Ontario (south-east of Ottawa), the Buntings showed up on Dec. 21 after our first big snowfall (30 cm). They have slightly increased in numbers gradually since that date and today I’m counting about 40 of them. We still have lots of snow but it now fairly mild. We’re getting some freezing rain today and temperatures are supposed to climb tomorrow. But the Buntings are still very active in the field, feeding and flying around.
Lise Balthazar

Hello from the Fenelon Falls in the Kawarthas ( north of Lindsay, Ontario):
Things here are much the same here in Fenelon Falls as Charles Maisonneuve describes from St-Fabien/Rimouski. SNBU at the feeder are down from other years ( previous years often over 200, this year a high of 50) and today, with rain and melting snow cover, no snbu at all.
Dan Bone

Hello Rick:
Like everyone else, the Snow Buntings have disappeared around my site near Arthur — did fairly well up until yesterday, when the birds left altogether. Summary so far this year

January 1 — 15 birds
January 2 — 207 birds + 4 Horned Larks
January 3 — 257 birds + 3 Mourning Doves
January 4 — 178 birds
January 5 — 28 birds ( trouble with a female Kestrel — one I banded in 2010, at that site)
January 6 — 39 birds + 2 Mourning Doves + 2 Lapland Longspurs
Jnauary 7 — 239 birds + 1 Horned Lark
January 8 — 50 birds
January 9 — 43 birds

The total of 1,056 Snow Buntings is the shortest time taken to reach 1 000 birds ever at my site — even the year I banded 3 900 birds in January. However, this thaw will certainly preclude any hope of reaching those numbers, I suspect. Also never captured Horned Larks in January at any of my sites.
Also, for the first time, I am getting birds back from 2009, 2010 and 2011 (as well as the expected 2012 birds). They tend to show small changes in wing chord but remarkably similar masses and fat scores — quite interesting. I seldom get birds back to my site that had been banded more than 12 months previously.
Take care……………….. David Lamble

Hungry buntings at the traps. -N. Furber

The Ruthven Park Snow Bunting Team has been put on hold. As of January 9th, the weather had changed and everything was gone- the Snow Buntings, the cold/wintery weather and the snow cover. The fields lay barren with puddles of water, and a few drifts of snow; all that remains of our banding endeavors are the small piles of corn, and a few Horned Larks. All we can do is wait for the return of cold temperatures, and dream about snow storms in hope of seeing the return of the Snow Buntings.
Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park Banding Station
Cayuga, Ontario

Hey Rick,
I’m hoping to get back out to my parent’s area by the end of the month if the snow returns. There were some buntings out that way mixed in with larger groups of HOLA’s. I tried baiting but didn’t get enough to put traps out in the time that I was there. Hopefully with some more snow I can get my dad to bait some spots for me so that when I head back there I’m ready to go.
Faye Socholotiuk
Lawrence Station (20 minutes west of London


Still have flocks of 100-200 coming to the corn in my driveway, however, we’re expecting rain and +8 in Barnston-Ouest this weekend, so I won’t be surprised if they disappear until there is good snow cover again. No banders here yet.
Carl Bromwich

In St-Fabien (near Rimouski) in the Lower St.Lawrence region in eastern Quebec, we have about 30 snow buntings at our feeder almost every day. We have had greater numbers in previous years. And we are expecting warm weather this week-end that could lead to open patches of agricultural fields. If this happens, buntings will be harder to attract.
Charles Maisonneuve

Hi everybody,
Here in the Richelieu River valley (Sainte-Victoire-de-Sorel, Québec), we started baiting on January 1st and 4-5 SNBU began to show up the next day every 4-5 hours or so. A couple days later, the groups increased to 30-50 birds showing up at about the same rate. A this time of the year, this is about the same traffic as last year but my expectations are similar to Charles Maisonneuve’s and visit rate should drop slightly this week-end with mild weather. So far, I did not have time to set the traps but as soon as winter weather returns I’ll give it a try.
Dominique Dufault

 I have baited a new site in Le Bic (in Between St-Fabien and Rimouski
2 days ago and already yesterday there was about 200 SNBU in it. I 
tried trapping them but it was so windy that the snow drift would 
accumulate on the cages and block the entrances in a minute or 2. I 
still managed to catch 2 before I gave up and decided I would try 
again when it’s not so windy instead. So we’ll see what happens!
Alex Anctil

Male Lapland Longspur. -A. Anctil

Hi Rick,
 So I went to try my spot today as there was almost no wind. The flock 
has increased to around 350. I spent 3 hours trapping and got 21 SNBU 
and 1 LALO. I think the weather was too nice today, plus they still 
find food in the field. Anyways, I have good hopes for this site!
 Alex Anctil

East Coast

Thank you for the updates on Ontario/Quebec successful viewings of the Snow Bunting; but here on PEI I have only been fortunate enough to enjoy a one day visit 3 years ago. In the middle of a 2 day storm.

Here in Stanley New Brunswick we have caught about 12 in two trap sessions and 0 in yesterday’s; it’s too warm right now & set to stay that way for a few days.
Tony (& Dorothy)
A.W. Diamond,Ph.D.
University of New Brunswick

Rick, in Perth-Andover (Carlingford) NB yesterday and there was a flock of aprox 30 in the field across from my parents. They said they have been there for a couple weeks.

None yet home in Stewiacke Nova Scotia
Barb McLaughlin


3 thoughts on “January 13th – Cross Country (SNBU) Checkup

  1. Hi,

    Just a follow up note to say that it was +9 here in Barnston-Ouest today with a few rain showers. Predictably, while there is still generally still good snow cover (for how long I cannot say), the SNBU numbers have dropped off precipitously. I counted five yesterday perched above the corn (they never came to feed) and saw a small flock in the distance today. I trust that winter will be back in short order; the mid-January thaw has become depressingly routine in southern Quebec. Unfortunately, the mid-February and mid-March thaws have also become the norm rather than the exception.

  2. Yes, I must say I’m getting a little concerned. I thought last year’s lack of winter was a fluke but the fact that the Grand River here is wide open, running full with no ice does not auger well…unless we get one heck of a cold snap.

  3. Hi Rick,

    Just to add another comment. Yesterday morning, I have seen at my station a small group of SNBU when it raining, I was surprise to see them. My big flock is gone along time ago, because I have a few Rock Pigeons and raptors around here, but Pigeons chase them. Yesterday, the weather here was rain and +5, so the snow drop down and today, is only -2. At this moment, I can see the grass at some place.

    Russell, ON

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