January 1st – Cross-Country (SNBU) Check-up

Male Snow Bunting.   -N. Furber

Male Snow Bunting. -N. Furber

Snow Bunting season is upon us again!! At our site in far southern Ontario we began to catch and band them in the middle of December – a month earlier than we’ve ever done so before! Does this tell us something about the nature of the coming Winter or….is it just coincidence? We’ll see. Let’s hope it’s a good season for all of you – and for the birds.
[For future posts, if you have pictures of birds, traps, trap arrays, and people that you could send along with your reports, that would be GREAT.]

Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut


Prairie Provinces

December 25, 2016
Best of the Season, Rick.
I wish I had a better present for you, but the situation here is not looking all that good. A snow storm about two weeks ago did bring the Snow Buntings in, and in decent numbers, but they are not staying. A feeding flock of 40-70 (one-time high count of 125 just after the storm) makes brief stops at the bait at sunrise and sunset, with sporadic visits from 10-20 during the day.
Most of the time they are entirely absent, and when they are on site they spend 5-20 minutes roosting in the poplars for every 1-2 minutes on the bait. But when they do want the millet they REALLY want the millet. At sunset yesterday a couple of White-tails kept them off the bait and when repeated “mobbing” didn’t dislodge the deer about fifty landed not twenty feet from the deck to glean under the feeders, which only happens once or twice a year, usually when wind buries the bait in snow.
Oh well, another Colorado low complete with blizzard is supposed to hit us today. Maybe that will change things for the better.

Bill Maciejko,
near Camp Morton, MB


December 27, 2016
Hi rick: Many small flocks of snbu here and sightings of hola and lalo intermingled with these flocks the largest flock I have heard of is a flock of 300 coming to corn just outside of Englehart at a birder who has been putting out corn for the past 5 winters. So far a small flock of under 25 birds has found the corn near Kerns Public [school] where we have been banding. Some days there are only 6 birds so we are waiting for the flock to increase in size before we attempt to band with the “school of flock”. Hopefully we will have more to report soon. Very happy to hear about the success of banders in the south.

Bruce Murphy
Hilliardton Marsh Banding Station near
New Liskeard, ON

December 26, 2016
Hello everyone,
We have over 100 Snow Buntings on our property right now, feeding on millet. They have been here for about 2 weeks already.
If anyone is available in our area for banding, please get in touch with me!!
Happy Holidays!

Lise Balthazar
Lanark, Ontario


December 26, 2016
Hi Rick,
Hope you had a very Merry Christmas! Glenn banded around 20 SNBU and 2 HOLA on the 21st. There were none for several days until after todays freezing rain. He checked this morning and banded 10 SNBU but the weather deteriorated too badly to stay out. It has been raining all afternoon.

Theresa McKenzie and Glen Reed
King City, ON

December 27, 2016
Hey Rick,
Jack has spotted some out by the farm where Joanne and I did some banding. Snow buntings were spotted Thursday, Dec. 22nd at 1384 Powerline Rd. West near Copetown. they saw about 20 on Christmas Eve too 🙂 We are hoping to try to get some banding in next week as I’m away but I’m not sure the weather is going to cooperate. We will let you know,

Faye Socholotiuk
Copetown, ON

December 29, 2016
I have done nearly 1000 Snow Buntings since December 11 .. and 5 Lapland Longspurs and 2 Horned Larks. The weather has been capricious and the snowfall variable .. we have placed 20 transponders on Snow Buntings to be detected by the Motus towers.

David Lamble
Fergus, ON

David Lamble with a Snow Bunting that he's just put a motus tag on.

David Lamble with a Snow Bunting that he’s just put a motus tag on.

December 29, 2016
I personally counted 180 during the Cedar Creek CBC as we had good snow cover. [This count is close to Essex/Kingville and was conducted on December 17th.] I came down with the ‘flu the day of the Holiday Beach CBC but we had lost our snow cover and they were absent in our zone. [This count was done on the 27th and is close to Amherstburg/LaSalle.]

Bob Hall-Brooks
Holiday Beach, ON

December 31, 2016
Happy New Year Rick and Nancy!
Just a quick update and something you may wish to add to the Blog Rick. As you know, our SNBU post-doc Emily McKinnon has been trying to get out another 20 avian nanotags ASAP given our early winter. We had hoped to deploy them with both David (Lamble) and Nancy. Given Emily’s very tight time constraints in the holidays since she had to fly out from Winnipeg and our short-lived snowy conditions here in SW Ontario, she ultimately deployed all 20 with David on December 23rd. Great news, but sorry we weren’t able to include you this year Nancy, but maybe next year!

I am extremely happy we were able to work with David this year for a number of reasons. First, I pitched this project to him many years ago and I am very happy we were finally able to make it happen with his help. Second, due to Emily’s tight schedule last year, very late snow conditions, barely any birds at banding sites and his banding proximity to BSC headquarters where tags were being activated, Emily ended up partnering with David Okines to deploy the 20 tags we had bought. David L was very happy this year (see attached photo of him deploying with Emily at Fergus) so I am glad we could make it all work out.
Now we wait for the data to roll in.

[PS: Sorry, here’s the link to our news entry for the work: http://www.oliverlovelab.com/news/]

Best to you both,
Oli Love, University of Windsor, ON

Despite a fairly thin snow cover, we were still getting buntings...in December!!   -N. Furber

Despite a fairly thin snow cover, we were still getting buntings…in December!! -N. Furber

December 31, 2016
On the 14th, I was just finishing off a Caribbean cruise with my wife when Nancy contacted me to say that not only were Snow Buntings in the area but….they were coming to the baited traps! This was a December first for us….we usually don’t start catching until the second half of January. That day she banded 9 SNBU’s, 6 HOLA’s and 1 LALO. For the next two weeks we got just enough snow to cover the ground and this, mixed with cold, windy weather, kept the birds in the area. By the end of December we have banded 124 SNBU, 18 HOLA, and 2 LALO. Interestingly, the Snow Bunting female:male ratio is almost exactly 2:1 – 82:42.

Rick Ludkin & Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park Banding Station, Cayuga, ON

The wide open field on Duxbury Road (3 km outside of Hagersville) - the openness makes it difficult for avian predators to sneak up undetected. Trap array is to the left of centre.

The wide open field on Duxbury Road (3 km outside of Hagersville) – the openness makes it difficult for avian predators to sneak up undetected. Trap array is to the left of centre.

Our current trap array. (We are getting some new traps made....so this will change.)  -N. Furber

Our current trap array. (We are getting some new traps made….so this will change.) -N. Furber

We find that Horned Larks are the first to find the bait; their feeding is noticed by the buntings who then come to it en masse. -N. Furber

We find that Horned Larks are the first to find the bait; their feeding is noticed by the buntings who then come to it en masse.
-N. Furber

Male Lapland Longspur.   -N. Furber

Male Lapland Longspur. -N. Furber


December 29, 2016
Hi Rick,
Here in Minganie, there is no Snow Bunting in the villages. We mainly catch in April during the spring migration. I wish to all the teams, good luck in their capture.
Happy Holidays

Yann Rochepault
Minganie, QC

December 29, 2016
Hi Rick,
Happy new year to you too!
There sure were TONS of buntings around Rimouski when I left before Christmas. I hope to start catching when I’m back in early January, although I will have to go hunting for a new capture site.
I’ll stay in touch if I have success,
Marie-Pier LaPlante
Rimouski, QC

P.S The newsletter will be ready at some point during January

December 11, 2016
Hi Rick,
Not sure if you’re in charge of the Snow bunting Network this year, but just wanted to let you know that the first flock of the season showed up in the field next to my house (Barnston-Ouest, Quebec) this morning. I hope it’s the beginning of a long season.

Carl Bromwich
(Barnston-Ouest, Quebec)



Newfoundland & Labrador:

December 24th, 2016
Rick, a couple sightings of small flocks in coastal dunes here in Gros Morne National Park on the west coast of Newfoundland this week.

Darroch Whitaker
Gros Morne N.P., NL


Dear Rick,
I am sorry to say that I will not be able to do Snow buntings this year and possibly not in the future. I had surgery on my thumb which I am recovering from and now found out that I need to have surgery on my shoulder. So I am out for this year’s SNBU season. The woman who did the baiting for me last winter sent me very detailed e-mail observations which I compiled into a Word file. It is long— seven pages and covers her observations from January to early March. If you think it would be helpful to have these observations I can condense it and send it to you.
Sorry my attempts at banding Snow buntings in Wisconsin have not been very successful– but not for lack of trying!
Vicki Piaskowsi Hartland, WI
[Of course I contacted Vick to say just reports on sightings would be great and we would like to get her colleague’s report……]

Leave a Reply