My Grandmother was a font of wise sayings and aphorisms. My favourite – the one that I remember the best and continue to extol liberally, probably because I was the subject of it on numerous occasions – was “only a fool makes the same mistake twice”. Another one was: “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Now, I had all the best intentions of sleeping in this morning, giving banding a break and making my wife’s life better with my presence. But….it was my turn to do the early replenishing of the bait. And I reasoned that if I had to get there early I might just want to “sample” the birds that might be hanging around waiting for breakfast – only for an hour or, at most, two (Marg would be sleeping anyway…). And since the cold temperatures would be bringing birds to the bait – in fact, the conditions were ideal what with the snow cover and cold temperatures – it just made sense. When I conveyed this plan to my still largely comatose wife, I was pleasantly surprised when she said: “Good, I’ll come and give you a hand when I get up.”
“OK”, I said, “But we’ll only band until noon.”
Well, so much for good intentions. The cold temperatures (it was -21 at dawn) did indeed concentrate the birds around the bait. I decided that, since this was a “day off”, I would put out only 3 traps rather than the usual 4. It didn’t make much difference. By the time Marg arrived (with refreshments from Tim Horton’s – the Home of Canadian Cuisine), I had already banded 50 birds. We worked a 2-car system: we banded out of my car, which we kept unheated so the buntings wouldn’t overheat, and we rested in her car, which we kept heated so we wouldn’t underheat. The traps were filling up so fast though that we didn’t have much time to spend in the heated vehicle. That is, until we got toward the end….
I have this unfortunate quirk: I like to set a benchmark and achieve it before wrapping up for the day. Bands come in strings of 100; we started on #23 and, since things were going so well, I thought getting to the end of the string would be a natural and easily achievable goal. Marg agreed. Great, let’s go for it. We hit that one, and more, about 11:30. So I suggested that perhaps “we” might want to consider wrapping up after 100 buntings banded “but, of course, we can wrap up now if you feel like it…” Marg refused to save me from myself and said: “Sure, let’s go for it.” Well, the birds were having none of it. On such a lovely sunny day, they decided to pick that time to explore the countryside – it took us longer to get the last 5 birds than it did to get the first 50. We didn’t get out of there until after 1:30. But it was a very good day:
Banded: 102 Snow Buntings, 9 Horned Larks, 4 Lapland Longspurs
Retrapped: 17 Snow Buntings, 3 Lapland Longspurs (and these numbers are low as I released many banded longspurs unprocessed when the bunting banding was heavy)