January 29th – A Deadly Game of Tag

There were ~150 birds waiting for me at the bait pile areas when I arrived around 7:30 this morning. A lovely new snow was already falling. Ahh….there’s nothing like Snow Buntings in the snow…..They also found their way into the traps in good numbers. I had to stop taking morphometric data and just “ring & fling” for 50 birds or so so as not to be overwhelmed. And then this river of birds just dried up. I looked out my car window to see the Merlin sitting in the tree right in front of the car. When I released the bunting I had just banded out of the window, the hawk was after it right away. The bunting zigzaged this way and that trying to shake the tailing Merlin that seemed to match it zig for zig. But then, after about 100 m, the hawk cut off the chase and flew off to a nearby telephone pole. This was repeated two more times that I saw – but each time the hawk stopped the chase after 100 m or so. The last chase was actually kind of funny: as soon as the hawk stopped chasing and turned around the bunting turned around as well and followed the predator within 5 m all the way back to the bunting field, seemingly none the worse for wear. I wonder if it was giving the hawk what for, a little trash talking perhaps, letting him know that he wasn’t to be messed with……

I knocked off early as the snow was beginning to cover everything and the Merlin had greatly reduced the number of birds taking a chance at the traps.

Banded: 83 Snow Buntings, 4 Horned Larks, 3 Lapland Longspurs

Retrapped 4 Snow Buntings, 4 Lapland Longspurs (actually there were a lot more longspurs that I could have processed if I hadn’t had so many buntings to deal with)


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