March 15th – A Hodge-podge

Geoff with the fait accompli. - A. Klause

What an amazing couple of days! It’s like May out there. Just outside my kitchen window, as I write this, a female Mourning Dove is sitting on a nest with eggs about 4 feet off the ground in an old trumpet vine.

Yesterday, in the bright sunshine, we opened a couple of nets, banding 9 and recapturing 7. After that we put up nets 5, 6, and 6A as well as 3 new Wood Duck boxes along the Fox Den Trail. Birds were on the move and out of the 36 species we encountered on the day 2 new ones: Eastern Phoebe and Northern Flicker.

Yesterday's 17 degree temperatures brought out this 40 cm Milk Snake by the Gate House. -M. Havelka

Banded 9:
Mourning Dove 1
Northern Cardinal 1
American Tree Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 3
American Goldfinch 2

Puddles and hail stones litter the ground just outside the lab after the storm.

Today was quite a change from yesterday: heavy overcast and threatening rain. I didn’t open any nets or traps but got right down to doing a census, hoping to get it in before the rain hit, which showed up approaching quickly on the weather radar. I set out despite the rumblings of distant thunder (taking to heart a line from one of my favourite quatrains in Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat: “..nor heed the rumble of a distant drum.”) I got about half of it completed when the heavens opened and a deluge descended which included hail stones the size of marbles. I got back to the lab before getting completely soaked and watched American Robins and Goldfinches piling into the big juniper that is just 10 m from the lab door – a good protection in these conditions. Before the rain though I saw two new species for the year: 2 Great Blue Herons (heading toward the heronry across the highway) and 2 Northern Pintails.

Rhiannon - just got her banding sub-permit and was recently published.

Rhiannon Leshyk just had her first academic paper published – on logging, hormones and Ovenbirds. She’s pretty excited about it. If you’re interested, here it is:

Snow Bunting News:
I’ve been trying to find out what is happening (or not happening) across “the Network”. So I had the following exchange with Alexander Anctil in Rimouski.
Bon Jour:
What’s happening out there?

Hi Rick,
“Nothing” would decribe the situation very well. After that snow fall
we had and that got me excited thinking SNBUs would be all over the
seeds, 2 or 3 days of consecutive rainfall melted the snow away and
now the field are almost all free of snow. It has been snowing for 2
days now, but they are forecatsing warm temperature starting from
tomorrow… hopefully we’ll have time to find a big flock before they
leave. I don’t think they will come to the seed as easily now, but
we’ll try with mist nets and playback… it has proven effective in
the past.
I haven’t seen a SNBU at my place in a week.


[I was interested in his use of nets and electronic playback so I asked him about it:]

Hi Rick,

The St-Lawrence is totally free of snow.
We used playback for SNBU at Tadoussac bird Observatory in late fall
of 2010. There were almost no birds around except a few SNBU that were
migrating high in the sky. So we just decided to try it… it was the
last day of the banding seaon (November 6 if I remember well). We put
playback of a SNBU flock (I believe the one from the Stokes cd) down
by a net and I sprinkled a bit of seeds under it. I tried to
camouflage the calling system in a nearby bush (I don,t know if it
played any role in our succes). We caught 5 that day and none had ever
been caught there. Actually not so many were flying over and our
captures represented a high percentage of them. You could see them
litteraly turn around and drop from the sky when they flew over the
area covered by the speakers. Their response to the playback was
really impressive and they would circle and circle around the net
until they would either hit it or go down to the seeds or eventually
get tired of it and continue their route. I wanted to try it this
winter, but I don’t have mist nests at home. I managed to borrow one
from a university teacher that I will get tomorrow, so we can try
soon. The only thig missing is a powerful calling system.

If you find a SNBU flock in your area in a place you haven’t bait, you
should try to quickly set up one or two nets, seeds under and playback.


And then this from Bruce Murphy in Timiskaming:
Hi Rick:
I do not know how long it will be up but photos of Joanne’s class banding birds are on the the board’s website right now; i am not sure if you can use this for your blog or not . The snbu have left with all of the warm weather so we will have to move onto other birds until next year. I will send you our final totals. The website is
Have a great spring,
My studetns were excited and sore when we caught a northern shrike last friday. banding never gets dull.

And from Dorothy Diamond in New Brunswick (but just back from Belize):
Thanks for this Rick. I am home now in a snowstorm, wondering why I was so upset that it rained 5 days out of our 7 in Belise. However, we caught and banded some cool birds there, and Tony was in his element. I learned how to run mist nets in the showers and often rain storms. The birds were all wet anyway, but the temp was around 70-80 degrees! We got them out fast and processed under cover.
I will look forward to reports on how my banding SNBU site measured up to others. I will try to run two sites next year, including one at my house.


[And this just in from Dorothy not two minutes ago:]
I notice SNBUs are still around here at my house, plus at two other farms I know including where I caught the 100. I suppose if I had the time I could catch more, but I am on to other things now. [Which begs the question: how can there be other things when there are still Snow Buntings….]

And from David Lamble in Fergus:
Hello Rick:
The Snow Buntings have been finished for a while here. My last banded Snow Bunting occured on the 5th — when I got 5 of the little guys and 4 Horned Larks. But it is a pretty poor year. My friends further north — North Bay and Haliburton reported few Snow Buntings all season — although they were not searching for them — just casually observing. So I suspect the little fellows did not come down, in huge numbers. There is a bit of an influx of Pine Siskins in my backyard — not like last year’s Common Redpoll invasion — but enough to prevent me having banding-withdrawal. They are so nice to handle and I find their tail-feathers are much more consistant for aging than the American Goldfinch (which is nice for an old guy like me). I hope you did ok for the Snow Buntings and Horned Larks this year. I only got two Lapland Longspurs this winter — did you do well with that species?

Leave a Reply