March 3rd – Cross Country (SNBU) Checkup

A flock of males takes to the air.    -L. Perras

A flock of males takes to the air. -L. Perras

CSBN awarded a Bird Studies Canada Baillie Grant and an Ontario Bird Banding Association Wasserfall Award

Dear CSBN banders.

It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that our network has been awarded a 2013/14 Baillie Regular Grant in the amount of $2,000 from Bird Studies Canada (BSC). In addition, the Ontario Bird Banding Association (OBBA) has also provided the network with a $500 award from the recently-established Wasserfall Memorial Fund. These awards will continue to enable our volunteering network to offset some of the many costs that our banders face during the long winters of banding, as well as helping us expand our banding efforts to additional sites and even provinces. We are especially excited given that this is the first Wasserfall Award to be attributed and as such, I thought I would briefly include some details from OBBA on the history of this award for your interest.

The Bill and Betty Wasserfall Memorial Award honours the memories of Bill and Betty Wasserfall, and their contributions to bird banding and the development of the bird observatory network in Canada. The OBBA funds the award, whose recipients are selected by Trustees of the James L. Baillie Memorial Fund. In 1956, Bill was a founding member and first secretary-treasurer of the OBBA and was a driving force behind growth of the membership of the fledgling organization. He conceived and implemented the concept of a chain of migration banding stations along the lower Great Lakes, a forerunner of the present Canadian Migration Monitoring Network. Bill operated the banding station at Point Pelee in the 1950s until 1960 and was a founder of the Long Point Bird Observatory in 1959-60, where he was an active participant for most of the 1960s and 1970s. He assisted Marshall Field in starting the Hawk Cliff Raptor Banding Station and participated in OBBA spring expeditions to Whitefish Point, Michigan which drew attention to it as a prime migration site for hawks and owls. During these years, social gatherings that followed the OBBA Annual meetings were often held in Bill and Betty’s home in Willowdale, Ontario. The tradition of friendly cooperative banding projects, a hallmark of OBBA, is attributable at least in part to Bill and Betty’s influence, which the OBBA hope to memorialize and perpetuate through the Bill and Betty Wasserfall Memorial Award.

Our volunteer network seems such an ideal and wonderfully reflective extension of Bill’s vision. As such, I would first like to sincerely thank both BSC and the OBBA for their extremely generous contributions to our efforts. Their help enables our group to go far beyond the minimum in terms of delivering on true research goals as a collaborative national group. Secondly, I would like to send a huge thanks to each and every one of you for all of the hours of dedicated work that you continue to put into this very important network. Without your hard work and willingness to train additional banders, we certainly wouldn’t be here. Finally, I would like to especially thank Christie Macdonald for all of her endless contributions to the network and our recent successful award application as well. Christie’s work on SNBUs linking Arctic and wintering behaviour is turning much of your hard-earned data into meaningful results and conservation priorities for this species.

Christie Macdonald

Christie Macdonald

As winter banding begins to wind down, I wish you all my very best for a great final push in SNBU banding. Please remember to send in receipts for feed and supplies so we can use these awards to your best benefit. As always, we do our very best to balance these funds across the needs of all of our network banders.

Your sincerely.

Oliver P. LoveAssistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Windsor


Hello Rick,
I am delighted to say that Saskatoon finally managed to get a regular flock of SNBUs coming to a feeding location, and we captured 8 of them on Feb. 3rd. We took photos of each one to confirm our information as they were all males, which seemed unusual. I have to get the photos from the other person yet. I was away the last 2 weeks, but will try again for more as we have a significant snow cover here, and they will hopefully return to the feeding station.
Jan Shadick
Saskatoon, SK

Sorry, Rick. I haven’t been able to coax any of the little fellas in to my trap yet. There are good numbers of SNBUs in the area, but I can’t seem to get them to slow down enough to stop and feed!
Harold Fisher
Nisbet Banding Station,
13 km NE of Prince Albert, SK

Hello Rick,
No improvement in Camp Morton buntings. Had only 19 for three minutes at 1745h yesterday (Feb.28). None this morning to 0730h. I was away in the truck until after dark. By then the deer had cleaned up the bait so I couldn’t tell if any buntings were in.
I’m going to the city Saturday and will check on Paul’s flock. I think this is our best bet. I get reports of sightings of 5-35 but always on the wing from travelling birders. All too distant for baiting anyway. The 65 reported last week at Ste. Annes were wintering among cattle, feed spread everywhere, so that’s out also.
On the hopeful side, it’s supposed to snow for the next four days. The Camp Morton flock might yet return. It should at least encourage Paul’s flock to stay put.
I’ll email an update when I get back tomorrow evening.
Fingers crossed,
Bill Maciejko

Hello Rick,
The baited Camp Morton flock has been AWOL for close to two weeks now: only 19 in for a brief visit the evening of Feb.28, and these did not even bother feeding. (I had to be away from home March 1 and 2 and each day deer consumed the bait piles, erasing any possible evidence that the buntings might have been in.) I did encounter 15, then 50 flying away from Hwy. #8 between Rds 81N and 80N this morning (Mar.2) while going to check the baited “Floodway flock,” NE of Winnipeg. That flock, which numbered 400 last week, has been reduced to 50, but at least they were feeding when seen mid-day.
Trip reports submitted by several birders indicate small flocks (30ish) widely spread through the South- and Central-Interlake, South Central, East and South-East regions of the province. The largest flock was 425 seen today just north of Sprague (S-E region), with three other flocks, totaling 75 north of this one. While this tells us nothing of where the birds wintered, it (with previous reports) indicates that a bait station in the S-E might be productive next year. There may be a chance of doing this. We could discuss this later.
All the best,
Bill Maciejko
Camp Morton, MB


Brett with a Horned Lark.      -J. Goddard

Brett with a Horned Lark. -J. Goddard

Hi Rick,
My name is Brett, I am a grade 8 bander at Kerns Pubic School . Over the past few weeks, my classmates and I have seen fewer birds coming to the traps, we have between 60 and 200 birds that are becoming weary of the traps, and do not seem as interested in eating corn. Other than that, banding buntings has been great! I think our best banding days may be behind us now . We have banded 750 buntings so far, and sadly, we may not hit our goal of 1000. Only 2 Horned Larks so far, and 18 Lapland Longspurs. Temperatures have been warmer lately, compared to earlier in the winter where it was sometimes -30! Lately there has been lots of wind and we’ve been having to shake the traps out a lot with all the snow blowing in them. We experienced a couple shrikes at our banding site which caused some problems for us, not much we could do though! Soon both species will be gone, the buntings and the shrikes! The best personal experience for me this season, was learning how to band. I’ve banded 8 buntings and I loved it. It is for sure an experience not to forget! The class and I have been frequently walking down to the site and back to bring birds to show the Gr. 1/2/3 class along with the kindergartens. They are so fascinated by the buntings. They always have questions for us to answer! I will be going to high school next year and after only 2 years of banding buntings with my classmates, I’m sure going to miss it! It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m glad I was there to help with this important project! I will look forward to coming back to the school on weekends in future years to band again! Hopefully our banding season will last a few weeks longer so we can reach our goal of 1000 birds! Take care

Brett banding out of the Timiskaming Snow Buntingmobile (also known as the "Rocket"). -J. Goddard

Brett banding out of the Timiskaming Snow Buntingmobile (also known as the “Rocket”). -J. Goddard

Joanne Goddard (right) processing a bird with a student scribe.     -B. Murphy

Joanne Goddard (right) processing a bird with a student scribe. -B. Murphy

Hi Rick,
We still have about 20 Buntings but they only visit the feeders once in a while and they don’t stick around the way theyused to. Other people have seen some in the ares (Lanark, Balderson)

Hi Rick,
In my area, I have only one SNBU yesterday afternoon. But, my husband told me that he saw a group of SNBU on his route. Here a picture of this SNBU and I’m asking where the others?
Line Perras

Line's lone bunting - very unusual for her site which sometimes has 100's of them.   -L. Perras

Line’s lone bunting – very unusual for her site which sometimes has 100’s of them. -L. Perras

[So a few days later……here are the others:]

A flock of males at the bait pile.    -L.Perras

A flock of males at the bait pile. -L.Perras

Hello Rick:
This week has been a blank. Only one bird from Monday to Thursday– today I did 58 birds including a Lapland Longspur and a Horned Lark. Can’t band tomorrow and I suspect the birds will be leaving shortly, so Sunday may be another bust………….
David Lamble

I trapped at Long Point Beach again on Tuesday and today. I think that the count of new banded birds is 44 (the records are at Old Cut). I plan to trap again on Sunday morning, so I may have an update Sunday afternoon.
David Hussell

Hi Rick:
I have only banded 82 SNBU this year.
Bill Read

Birds in the traps.  -N. Furber

Birds in the traps. -N. Furber

Ebb and flow
Rain and snow
Follow the snow buntings
Wherever they go.

The Ruthven Park Banding Team had one more opportunity to band when
southwestern Ontario received that record snowfall of 30 cm on
February 8, 2013. With the return of deep snow, the snow buntings
returned to our bait sites and it resulted in two days of successful
banding of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and Lapland Longspurs. Only
two days – beautiful days with fresh snow, blue sky, cold
temperatures, warm sunshine, and birds to band. After that, the rain
came and the snow base deteriorated and the snow buntings were
gone. Our banding ‘season’ had been cut off time and again due to
the changes in weather this winter. We had three bait sites
established that Horned Larks would be feeding at but the flocks of
Snow Buntings would come and go. Despite the snow melt throughout
the month of January, the Snow Buntings returned to our bait sites
once the snow returned. The birds would be sitting on top of the
snow at the bait sites (which we had marked with a flag), with the
cracked corn sometimes buried below a snow cover. I wondered if the
birds would return to our bait sites when they had dispersed, never
seeing the Snow Buntings for a couple of weeks. We were not
disappointed. So ends another season, one marked with success and
some disappointment with the lack of snow and cold you hope to have
in the winter season. I would love to follow the snow buntings when
they move around, wondering…. where do they go?

Nancy Furber
Ruthven Park Banding Station

Bait site with buntingmobile in the background.   -N. Furber

Bait site with buntingmobile in the background. -N. Furber

When the buntings fail.....Horned Larks are a great substitute.   -N. Furber

When the buntings fail…..Horned Larks are a great substitute. -N. Furber


Hi Rick,
I’ve been out trapping the last few days with 2-3 very slow days and
one good afternoon. I caught 38 birds, of which 30 went in an aviary
for a professor at UQAR. This brings me to a not so impressive total
of 63 birds this season. We should receive some snow this weekend and
I might get lucky!
Alex Anctil

Hi Rick,
As I hoped, it snowed a lot today and I went out trapping for 2 hours
45 minutes. I managed to catch 54 SNBU bringing my total to 116 SNBU
and 1 LALO. We’ll see how many I can add to this before they go north!
Alex Anctil

Hi Rick,
I added another 31 SNBU today. I had miscounted yesterday and
I am now at 149 SBNU and 1 LALO.
I also retraped a female that I banded on January 11 2013 about 6km
away at another baiting site. I guess she’s been around all winter.
Alex Anctil

Buntings eschewing the ski slopes in the distance for some cut corn.    -B. Gendreau

Buntings eschewing the ski slopes in the distance for some cut corn. -B. Gendreau

Hi Rick,
Nothing change for around three weeks. In between 30 and 200 SNBU are feeding daily at my baiting site. The number change drastically with the weather. Yesterday, I have band 15 SNBU (22 year total) almost all bird are adult male. I need to make more ground trap with a different trap system to be more efficient. Also, a Northern shrike was trying to chase the SNBU in the trap!!!
Benoit Gendreau, Biologiste
Berthier-sur-Mer, Qc

A lone trap with the bait blown downwind.     -B. Gendreau

A lone trap with the bait blown downwind. -B. Gendreau

East Coast
Did a look around all of Labrador West yesterday …… none!!!
I understand there are some in Cartwright for quite some time.
Gordon Parsons

LOL,Digby has had no sightings .Lots of Hoary Redpoll.
Stephen Burrows
Nova Scotia

Snow Bunting in PEI.      -L. Dawson

Snow Bunting in PEI. -L. Dawson

These Snow Buntings (3 in total) arrived during a storm in January 2013; Albany, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Linda Dawson
    -L. Dawson

-L. Dawson

Northern U.S.

Hi Rick,
Today my husband found a large flock (>100 birds) of Snow buntings and Horned larks in a farm field near our home. I received the owner’s permission to work there and baited the area with corn. I plan to go check for birds and then bait again tomorrow morning. I hope to start banding on Saturday morning if the birds are still there. If I do get to band I will send you the band string numbers early next week. Do you think these birds are starting to migrate or could this be a winter flock?
Let’s hope the birds stick around so we can learn something about these Wisconsin birds.
Thank you,
Vicki Piaskowski

Nice trap setup on a beautiful Wisconsin day.....but no Snow Buntings.   -L Piaskowski

Nice trap setup on a beautiful Wisconsin day…..but no Snow Buntings. -L Piaskowski

We put out traps out yesterday in southeastern WI but no captures. They land and walk around the traps but don’t walk into the entrances. These traps have been used successfully for juncos and tree sparrows.
Noel Cutright

Hi Rick,
We had our first day of trying to band SNBU yesterday. When my husband and I set up the traps I counted 45 SNBU and about that many HOLA. We covered the three piles of corn that we had used for baiting, so that the only food available at the site was in the traps. I’m using Government Sparrow traps provided by the UW- Milwaukee Field Station that have been successfully used to trap SCJU and ATSP. We checked the traps from the road about every 30 minutes and did not see any Snow buntings in the area. There were Horned larks trying to find food on the outside of the traps but they did not go in. We trapped from 0700-1100 and didn’t capture any birds. At Noel’s suggestion, when we were finished, I clipped open the top of the traps (half of trap is open on top) and left them in the field with a lot of cracked corn inside. I also baited in the three additional spots where I have been baiting the birds since Thursday. Today there were about 10 Horned larks feeding near the traps and a few SNBU. We are due for a big snowstorm on Tuesday. Should I continue to bait both in the open traps and also outside or should I put food only in the opened traps? I’d appreciate any suggestions you may have about getting these birds to go inside the traps.
Noel noticed that there was a fresh? manure spread in one of the fields quite a distance behind the traps. Snowmobiles have also been driving across the road from where I’ve been baiting the birds– but that’s usually just a weekend thing.
I’ve attached two photos of my traps and the trap set up. We’re hoping to band again on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Thank you,
Vicki Piaskowski

Everything looks good but no buntings caught yet.    -L. Piaskowski

Everything looks good but no buntings caught yet. -L. Piaskowski

2 thoughts on “March 3rd – Cross Country (SNBU) Checkup

  1. Hi Rick,

    No SNBU in Barnston-Ouest, QC (or almost none) for most of February, after an unusually early presence in January. Last weekend however, I had a flock of 100 at my bait site. This weekend after several MORE days of warm weather, though, when Marie-Pier (the bander!) arrived with her trap, there were none to be seen. There are still a few showing up to snack on corn, but I have the feeling that the season here is pretty much over….without a single bird being trapped. I’m happy to see that others have had better luck.

    P.S. I really enjoyed your posts regarding Kenya.

  2. Seems to be a common theme this Winter: “they were here…and but now they’re gone”.

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