January 5th – Cross-Countr(ies) Snow Bunting Check-up

Marie-Pierre's 1st Snow Bunting.     -M-P. LaPlante

Marie-Pierre’s 1st Snow Bunting. -M-P. LaPlante

For me it’s an exciting as well as very interesting way to finish off 2013 and start 2014: with a country-wide accounting of the presence/absence of Snow Buntings. And as you read the following brief descriptions, you can feel the excitement of those that are catching and banding some, the frustration of those who are being “teased” by the trap-hoppers, and, simply, the overall joy and awe generated by these hardy little birds. The Canadian Snow Bunting Network now reaches from the Yukon to Newfoundland, down into Wisconsin and…..we even have a report from Norway!!
Thanks to everyone that submitted reports and pictures and….Happy New Year!


I have been aware of the Snow Bunting Network but have not participated as yet. I worked on two Xmas bird counts this year and have had people looking for SNBU. Have seen 2 on Dec 21 by my community of Haines Junction, and another 2 north near the Kluane Lake area. Otherwise it is very quiet. Had a LALO seen recently along the Haines Highway and it is likely a first for the Yukon in the winter. I hope to band birds in March when we see them regularly. Smiles and Happy New Year.
Julie Bauer

Northwest Territories

Hey Rick,
I forgot to tell you that we haven’t had a single SNBU since November. They are long gone. There aren’t many birds up here (Willow Ptarmigan, Raven, Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Common/Hoary Redpoll, Black-billed Magpie, and I’m told there are American three-toed Woodpeckers and other sp. of woodpeckers somewhere) and I can’t even seem to get those that are around to visit one of my THREE feeders! sigh.
Rhiannon Leshyk
Yellowknife, NWT

Prairie Provinces

Hi Rick,
Just before year’s end I saw a few flocks (~60 buntings total) southeast of Calgary in stubble fields where snow levels were fairly low; Horned Larks were actually a bit more numerous in the area.
Marcel Gahbauer

[December 30th]
Hello Rick,
We had 200 Snow Buntings on our Christmas Bird Count here in Hinton. There is a large group hanging around the train tracks east of Hinton. How long does it take for them to respond to a baited site?
Beth MacCallum
Hinton, AB

[January 5th]
Hi Rick.
Camp Morton banding, planned for this weekend cancelled due to snow storm and extreme cold. In these temps birds don’t hang around for very long. Had 300 at sunrise feed, 50-150 at a time throughout day, 500 at pre-sunset feed. Numbers down from a week ago. Plan is to try again next weekend.
All the best,
Bill Maciejko
Gimli, MB


Snow Bunting country around Timiskaming Shores.     -B. Murphy

Snow Bunting country around Timiskaming Shores. -B. Murphy

[January 3rd]
HI rick: we banded 138 snow buntings in December and 24 lalo. We have been unable to band for almost a week now because we have been locked down in a bitter freeze. It was -44 last night but we are hopeful to get out and band tomorrow the 4th. We have about 200 birds coming to food at one of our sites and are just itching to get out when the temperature drops. They are calling for 15 cm of snow so we are definitely being challenged by the weather. There are definitely fewer birds around the north east then there were last year but we are still keen to band as often as we can. Happy newyear to all in the group; looking forward to catching anyone of your banded birds asap. Someone in the area says they saw a bunting last year with a white band. Is anyone using colour bands?? If there is ever the chance to be a part of a colour banding program we would be the first to volunteer to help with that research. All the best. An inside day for us for sure; it has heated up to a balmy -38
Bruce Murphy
Timiskaming Shores
Snow Buntings moving in.....      -B. Murphy

Snow Buntings moving in….. -B. Murphy

[January 5th]
Hi rick if all I had to do was band buntings oh what a two days we would have had. Does anyone on the list have to deal with the likes of getting teenagers to work and waking up after going to a friend’s Ukrainian Christmas celebration? Despite all of these challenges Joanne and I managed to band a whopping 135 buntings in about 6 hours of actual trapping time. I have never seen traps so full in my short snbu banding career; very exciting. And because I am totally righteous with the banding lab we have already entered the birds and I can tell you we banded 57 asy birds and 82 sy birds and 1 lalo snuck in with all of the snbu. Wish we had had favorable trapping temperatures over the break and now I get to put students to sleep for the next week when I know they would so love banding birds . All the best, banders. The birds are on the move and there is tons to learn. We have had 4 birds from past years return to our site – that is so crazy cool. Even cooler than a Saskatchewan arctic high!!!
Bruce Murphy
Timiskaming Shores
Amid bunting tracks, note the Longspur track, 17th down from the top right corner.    -B. Murphy

Amid bunting tracks, note the Longspur track, 17th down from the top right corner. -B. Murphy

[December 31st]
Good morning,
I managed to go out yesterday for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count in Lanark Highlands; it wasn’t a bad day, even though it was bitterly cold. A flock of about 40 to 50 Snow Buntings showed up at my place early in the morning, the highest number we’ve had so far. I will let you know if we get more.
All the best in 2014!
Lise Balthazar

[January 5th]
Hi Rick, No more recent sightings of the large SNBU flock seen in the neighbourhood hayfields just before Christmas (Nipissing District, 12 km east of Powassan). I too was away for most days between Christmas and now, I will be watching for them. I did snowshoe through the hayfield where they had been seen and was able to see all the little prints – they were most fond of the red clover and timothy seed it seems. Although I have spread some corn often, the wind buries it with snow so fast, the birds don’t find it.
The gentleman in Eau Claire reports just 11 SNBU at his feed area (he usually has 50-100 by now). But that is a recent increase from just 2-5.
Hopefully you receive lots of more Buntiful reports!
I will update if there is news,
Lori Anderson
North Bay

[December 30th]
Hello Rick:
The Snow Buntings seemed to have abandoned my area at the moment. I banded 16 today and 19 yesterday ( plus two Lapland Longspurs). However, the flock(s) is/are small. I had a large flock of 400 or so near my area last week but none since. I am a little concerned but not greatly. I did not band any Snow Buntings until December 30 2012 and I did around 3 000 all told in January and February, 2013 — so it is early days — and I am the perpetual optimist. I hope you are doing better than I…………..
David Lamble

[January 4th]
Dear Rick:
It looks like a very slow year for Snow Buntings at my site — only done about 200 birds over the past 4 days.[hmmm…wish I had that problem – editor] Interestingly, I am getting retraps from previous days banding — which is unusual — generally I do not get birds for some days after banding — that is, if I band on Tuesday, I do not usually get those birds again until Saturday or Sunday. But now I am getting some of those birds the next day. It implies that the birds are “hanging around” rather than hopping from one site to another.
I did get a March 2010 bird yesterday — this is also a bit unusual, since I do not get many retraps from more than a year or two previous.
As you know, the Snow Buntings sleep at night under a blanket of snow — they burrow in. I was wondering if the ice storm trapped many birds under the snow and as a result the population in this area is greatly reduced.
I have not caught any Lapland Longspurs in 2014 and not seen any in the flocks. No Horned Larks either.
The flocks are quite small this year — perhaps 50 to 100, but certainly not larger. They are quite jumpy because of heavy predation by Kestrels and Shrikes in my area. The snow cover is shallow and the ice under the snow makes foraging difficult for the birds, so I am wondering if they have moved north to escape the ice and will come down after the inevitable thaw.
take care……………hope all is well with you………………..
David Lamble

[December 27th]
Hi Rick,
Reporting from King Township (north of Toronto), we started getting SNBU to the bait just before the ice storm, then caught 10 of a flock of around 150 on the 21st, along with one LALO. The 22nd they were hungry enough to enter the traps more consistently and we banded 48 plus another LALO. We haven’t been out yet since.
Theresa McKenzie

Nancy's thoughtful trap placements.  -N. Furber

Nancy’s thoughtful trap placements. -N. Furber

[January 1st]
Hello Everyone,
Within the last two weeks of December, the weather has brought rain, ice storms, balmy temperatures, light snowfalls, and cold temperatures. When the snow cover is gone, the bait piles are stark in the open fields, void of birds. How quickly this changes when the snow and cold returns, enticing the birds to our piles of corn, even when they’re covered in snow. The birds know where the bait site is, those piles of corn in the middle of a field of white. This was evident last week when our area received some snow over a period of a few days. With only a small snow cover, Horned Larks were feeding on the corn, attracting additional birds. Without sufficient snow cover, birds will visit the bait site but not always enter the tunnels to feed inside the traps but there’s always hope for those that are patient. So, on three occasions ground traps were set up with high high hopes of catching some birds. We had success with the Horned Larks entering the traps, but the Snow Buntings were only teasing us with their presence in good numbers, but there was no need for them to stay and feed with other natural food still available in the fields. Our patience did pay off though and, on December 26, there were 37 birds banded – 3 Snow Buntings (2 female and 1male), 3 Lapland Longspurs, and an amzing total of 31 Horned Larks. On December 27, there were 11 birds banded – 4 Snow Buntings (2 female and 2 male) and 7 Horned Larks; and on December 31, there were 9 birds banded – 7 Horned Larks and 2 Lapland Longspurs. This brings our year-to-date banding totals to: 10 Snow Buntings, 62 Horned Larks (wow!), and 7 Lapland Longspurs. As I’m typing this, the weather forecast for the first week of the new year promises COLD temperatures and snow. Just what we need to bring the birds in to the bait sites in the anticipation of banding in the new year.
Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park National Historic Site Banding Lab,
Cayuga, Haldimand County
Wing detail of a HY-M.       -N. Furber

Wing detail of a HY-M. -N. Furber

[January 3rd]
The Saugeen Shores CBC was yesterday and the SNBU numbers were very low – less than 400 for the entire count area. I haven’t seen any myself in the past month.
On New Year’s Day, I participated in the St. Clair CBC and our group totaled almost 4,000 SNBU with hundreds of HOLA and LALO. I don’t know what the total is for the count but there are thousands in the St. Clair area.
Happy New Year,
Cindy Cartwright

I have just arrived in Florida. While I can’t confirm your assertion (hypothesis?) that there are no SNBUs in Florida, so far I have not found evidence to support the hypothesis that there are SNBUs in Florida.
Andrew Sawyer and I have been baiting Long Point beach since October and eventually attracted a flock of about 100. We did our first trapping on 27 and 31 December and got 58 total. I don’t have the exact figures here, but about 80% were females and a high proportion of those (probably 70-80%) were HY.
Andrew will be away for a couple of weeks starting on 9 January, and we both return about 23rd. Stu has agreed to put out bait two or three times a week during our absence.
The current cold is really good for trapping. I will be thinking of you and praying that you get lots more of the same.
David Hussell
Long Point


[December 30th]
Hello Rick,
I had around 60 buntings in my backyards this morning in the bait.
Ludo Jolicouer

An interesting trap design.    -B. Gendreau

An interesting trap design. -B. Gendreau

Buntings at the bait.    -B. Gendreau

Buntings at the bait. -B. Gendreau

[January 4th]
Hi Rick,
You will find my banding station at this link: http://goo.gl/maps/pvZfs
My banding total is 91 and 1 LALO in only three afternoon of banding. There are mostly fat male.
I will probably band this afternoon. I let you know what’s going on.
Later today, I will send to you a few picture of my site and traps.
[Later today: … I catch 30 this afternoon (totals: 121 SNBU and 1 LALO). Only 13 females in 121 birds!]
Cordialement/Happy new year!
Benoit Gendreau
Montmagny Area

The beauty of banding along the south shore of the St. Lawrence.   -B. Gendreau

The beauty of banding along the south shore of the St. Lawrence. -B. Gendreau

-B. Gendreau

-B. Gendreau

[December 27th]
I haven’t been around much since the 20th, but saw no flocks in my area either yesterday or today in spite of what must be difficult conditions, with a thick layer of ice covering EVERYTHING. I’ll let you know when they show up.
Carl Bromwich

[January 3rd]
Hi Rick,
I’m in Barnston-Ouest, Quebec….south of Sherbrooke, near the Vermont border….and a small flock of twenty SNBU finally showed up at my corn this morning.
Carl Bromwich

Happy new year Rick!
This is just to let you know that after a few more tries at the Sawyerville site, I finally ended up catching and banding my first snow bunting last week! The first of many to come, I hope.
The flock grew to about 50 nervous birds the last time I was there.
All the best for the year to come,
Marie-Pier LaPlante

[December 27th]
Hi Rick, I’m always a day late for the report, anyway here is ours:
We are again banding at the Mirabel site this year, we just moved the banding site to a neighbor a few hundreds meters away. As of Christmas, we’ve banded 114 SNBU in 4 sessions (well really more 3 since on the first day we only caught 4 birds, trap-shyness they say!). We also recaught one of the birds we banded in January 2012. We will continue to band 2-3 times a week there. We also have other banders looking for spots on the south and north shore of Montreal.
Simon Duval
Coordinator, McGill Bird Observatory

[December 28th]
Hey Rick, make that 145 SNBU banded, 31 were banded this morning.
This is looking more and more like our best winter in three years!!!
Simon Duval

[December 30th]
Hi Rick,
We’ve taken a break for the new year, we now stand at 206 SNBU banded, 93% males, pretty much half and half HY birds Vs AHY birds. We’ve never banded in December before but looks like it’s going to be our best winter so far! Cheers,
Simon Duval

[December 28th]
Hi Rick,
Yes, they have responded…. and they want food. After no success at all last winter and again two weeks ago, I set the traps out yesterday and banded 54. A flock of around 100 spent the day near the bait. As two years ago, they were mainly HY/SY males. I might set the traps again next week.
Happy holidays
Dominique Dufault

[December 25th]
Hi Rick,
more than 350 SNBU at my bait this mourning. But I don’t have time to band today ;(
à bientôt,
Benoit GendreauBiologiste, chargé de projet à la CDEMM

Maritime Province

Hi Rick,
There is a flock of SNBU at the farm where we have banded in the past, of about 100 at last count. We have set the traps open for them to get used to seeing them, and will be starting banding this coming week. On Dec. 14th a flock of about 200 were seen in this area of NB on the Christmas Bird Count. (not seen again by me).
I will keep you informed.
Dorothy Diamond
(near) St. John, NB

[January 2]
The snow buntings have just showed up in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, along with -20C daytime temps.
Barb McLaughlin

- S. Burrows

– S. Burrows

Wouldn't it be nice to band in ones front yard?  -S. Burrows

Wouldn’t it be nice to band in ones front yard? -S. Burrows

[December 25th]
Merry Christmas, first little group spotted today total of 8. Culloden Nova Scotia
Stephen Burrows

[January 3rd]
No banding, just watching, Feeding, Culloden, Nova Scotia Jan 2014
Stephen Burrows

Two males.    -S. Burrows

Two males. -S. Burrows

- S. Burrows

– S. Burrows

Red check marks indicate the Wisconsin counties with reports of Snow Buntings.  -V. Piaskowski

Red check marks indicate the Wisconsin counties with reports of Snow Buntings. -V. Piaskowski

[January 1st]
Hi Rick,
I requested Snow bunting sightings on wisbirdnet and about 25 people responded. I compiled their responses and checked off the Wisconsin counties where people had observed Snow buntings. It seems like there are quite a few around. I’m attaching a scan of the map I made. The red checkmarks indicate that SNBU were seen in that county.
I checked eBird for SNBU locations in Waukesha County where I live, but all were too far away for me to bait them every day. We did a lot of driving this morning to look for birds in all of the farm fields about 15 to 20 minutes from our house. The only birds we saw were a flock of about 15 Horned larks. The field where the Snow buntings turned up last year has not had any birds. Although, they did not show up there last year until March.
I’m having an injection in my knee next week and then will be in Florida from January 17-February 13. My husband is coming back February 2 and plans to bait the field where the birds showed up last year. If birds don’t turn up in the baited field, we will search again when I get back in Feb. This is quite a challenging species to study!!!
I am giving talks about Snow buntings to two bird clubs in April and May in areas where I know there are quite a few SNBU. I’m hoping I can partner with some people in these groups who would be willing to help bait the birds, and if they’re interested, assist when I come to band them. We’ll see.
Vicki Piaskowski

[January 2nd]
Hi Rick,
I was in Norway for almost all of December and did not see a single
SNBU over there 🙂 I will be back in Northern Québec in 2 days and
keep you posted on SNBU activity.
Happy new year,
Alex Anctil
Drammen (south of Oslo)

2 thoughts on “January 5th – Cross-Countr(ies) Snow Bunting Check-up

  1. We had a flock of 50-60 snow buntings visit us yesterday, February 21st, 2014 at Belmont, Nova Scotia (on the banks of the Kennetcook River).. A wonderful sight!

  2. We saw our very first snow buntings yesterday (26 March 2014) We didn’t know what they were but match the pictures here exactly. We are near Oxford NS in Cumberland County.

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