The old adage goes: “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning”. Fortunately, this morning was the exception that proves the rule – it was a beautiful morning. I was interested in seeing when the birds arrived and what they did at that early hour but they beat me to it. Even though I reached the site well before sunrise, there was a flock of at least 125 Snow Buntings swirling around above the bait area. When I checked while putting out the traps I found that all the cut corn that I had put down yesterday had been eaten. These birds were just waiting for me to bring them breakfast.
Interestingly, the first group of birds I caught were NOT Snow Buntings. The first flurry trapped 5 Horned Larks and 2 Lapland Longspurs. The longspurs I could understand as they seem to have the traps figured out but last year I had a harder time catching Horned Larks (today I got 12 vs 4 longspurs), so this was a bit of a surprise. Multiple flocks of Snow Buntings (I think they were multiple) dropped in throughout the morning ranging in size from a dozen birds to, in one instance, well over 150 birds. The buntings were very “skittish” though, flying in, foraging quickly (and usually well away from the traps) and then flying up. Sometimes the flock reeled and returned but at other times it just kept going and I was able to follow it with binoculars for over hlaf a kilometer. My conclusion is that there are lots of Snow Buntings in the area and that they know about and regularly visit this concentrated food source. So, when the conditions worsen (if they worsen in this very strange Winter) then I think I will catch them in good numbers at this site…..we’ll see.
12 Horned Larks
19 Snow Buntings
4 Lapland Longspurs
1 Lapland Longspur (banded on January 14th; recaught twice today)