I arrived at the trapping site just before 7:30. Although sunrise wasn’t until 7:50, it was still quite light, light enough to see a large flock of Snow Buntings wheeling over the bait. I had hoped this would be the case and had felt pretty confident that it would be so – due to the deep cold during the night. The temperature was -19 C. I quickly set out the traps and replenished the cut corn. I had the first Snow Bunting by 7:50.
The flocks continued to be “skittish” however – flying in, dispersing around the traps and then quickly taking off again without taking the time to figure out to get into them. It was kind of frustrating! The more one watched, the more frustrating it got. Faye Socholotiuk dropped by for an hour to help out and quickly coined the adage: a watched trap never fills. Unfortunately, too true.
We continued to catch birds slowly but steadily until around 9:30 at which time the birds simply disappeared. Some of the reason was the presence of a Northern Shrike perched in the top of a roadside tree not more than 100 m from the traps. (I wondered how long it would be until a predator would clue in to the feeding activity concentrated in a small area.) And then a Northern Harrier went through. But I don’t think this was the main reason for their disappearance. As the morning progressed, the temperature went up and, although, it was only -12 by 10:00, the absence of wind and the intensity of the sun was resulting in very pleasant conditions. Further, there was only 2 cm of snow on the ground and, with the sun, bare patches were opening up – very reminiscent of early March, actually. So my thinking is that the birds simply began to spread out over the countryside to forage. The conditions that had driven the birds to the trap area at first light had ameliorated. In regard to yesterday’s prediction that they would be at the traps….I was sort of right.
5 Horned Larks (all females)
1 Lapland Longspur
13 Snow Buntings (all females)
Rob Mueller and Angie Macaloney arrived from Mississauga to see some Snow Buntings – these were the first for Angie…and she was able to get to hold one! Fortunately for me, Rob had his camera (and new lens) and was able to take some great shots: