March 29th – Of Migrants and Snow Buntings

For the past 10 days or so, I’ve been trying to get out to Ruthven and, at least, do a census to try to get a sense of how migrants might be reacting to this unusual Winter. Long-distance migrants, that are in the tropics and have no idea of what has gone on here, will be unaffected but short-distance migrants will have an idea and theoretically should be returning early.
Here’s a comparison of a range of species that I was able to dig records up for:
2012 2011 2010 2009
Osprey March 28 April 8 April 22 April 9

Killdeer February 27 March 10 March 9 March 17

Eastern Phoebe March 14 April 1 March 27 March 28

Tree Swallow March 18 March 29 March 24 March 21

Chipping Sparrow March 28 April 12 April 7 April 9

Field Sparrow March 27 April 7 April 4 April 10

Common Grackle March 2 March 10

So, there certainly seems to have been a response (although we haven’t been seeing a LOT of migrants of any one species – just the vanguard so to speak).

Sometimes when I do the census I’ll run the ground traps to see what’s around. Today I had pretty good success banding 22 and recapturing 13:
Banded 22:
4 Mourning Doves
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
15 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 13:
1 Mourning Dove
2 Song Sparrows
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 House Finches
7 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 32 spp. (including the first Purple Finch of the year)

And while we’re looking for migrants from the south, folks along the St. Lawrence and in Newfoundland are poised and ready for the migration of “our” Snow Buntings. Here’s a couple of comments I received today:

From Darroch Whitaker in Rocky Harbour Newfoundland:
Good news – I ran out quickly after work last night and did manage to catch
4 buntings before dark, all ASY males and all pretty fat (one scored 3, the
rest 4). Lots of them around right now and I have no idea how long this
will last so am planning to spend lots of time at it this weekend. DW

And from Alex Anctil along the St. Lawrence near Rimouski:
I saw a small flock yesterday (~ 30), but a fellow birder had a flock
of ~ 1900. Last week I had a flock of about 3000 and flocks of 2-3K
have been reported. The thing is that they are not reliable, even if I
see them in a field one day, they are not there the day after. So it’s
hard to prepare for a catch because we never know where they are going
to be.
We’ll see what we can do, but Ludo and I are rushing to get done with
our masters so time is hard to find! But we are so close from 300…we
need only 13 more! Alex

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