October 28th – Cross Country (SNBU) Checkup [and Today’s Results]

There was a bite to the wind this morning – coming out of the North; a reminder that Winter is not too far off. And with it will come the Snow Buntings to spend their Winter in the relatively balmy climes of southern Canada. The sighting of the first flock down here in far southern Ontario is always an exciting event. But for me the Snow Bunting migration started much earlier: on September 10th when I was on a ship in Davis Strait between Greenland and Baffin Island. (For a description of that period I would invite you to scroll back in the blog to the entry for September 20th – “Recounting A Sea Voyage“.)

Since then I have been getting emails from various wide-spread members of the Canadian Snow Bunting Network, all of whom share my great interest in this marvellous bird. Here’s a recounting in chronological order:

[September 30th]
I was in Iqaluit from 13 to 27 September. Unfortunately, most of the wheatears left by 17 September, but I spent some time trapping Snow Buntings. From 17th to 23rd I trapped 43 SNBU of which 29 were male and 14 female. To my surprise they were all HY, which perhaps indicates that AHYs left earlier. Are you aware of any data indicating that AHYs arrive earlier in the south? Most winter banders are not operating at the time that SNBU arrive, but TCBO data may be worth looking at. Also the preponderance of males seemed to increase later. On 23rd I trapped 10 SNBU of which only 1 was female and my impression was that overall numbers were considerably reduced by that date. We know that females tend to winter further south and perhaps they start earlier than males.
David Hussell

[October 20th]
Hey Rick,
I was on the Avalon Peninsula in newfoundland last Monday and saw a flock of 200.
Hope all is well
Fergus Nicoll

[October 21st]
Hi Rick,
Quite a few observations now in the NWT. I had a flock of 34 last Thursday and other birders saw a few smaller flocks (15 – 25 individuals) around Yellowknife. There has also been sightings (~12 individuals) in Fort Simpson, NWT.
Rhiannon Leshyk

]October 21si]
There have been a scattering of reports from the Northeast coast of
Newfoundland
over the past 2 weeks too, though I haven’t seen any yet
myself.
Darroch Whitaker

{October 21st]
LOL….it promises to be a long time before they show up in southern Quebec!
[Carl Bromwich in response to Darroch’s message]

[October 23rd]
Hi Rick
We have had about 2 inches of snow over the last 4 days. With it came the first small flock of 12 SNBU. They were about 25 Km west and 25 Km south of my location at Love Saskatchewan.
Bert Dalziel

[October 26th]
The first few snow flakes were flying here in Ottawa on Friday, and I spotted a flock of 40-50 SNBUs just outside of Ottawa near Wakefield this morning! It was nice to hear their calls again!
Christie Macdonald

[October 28th]
While out looking for Snowy Owls yesterday by Fairview Alberta I came across an adult male Gyrfalcon. I setup to trap this guy and it made 2 quick passes at my pigeon. After that it was game over, I watched as he made an attempt at a large flock of over 500 plus SNBU’s. He failed in the first attempt but the second attempt he caught one. It always amazes me how fast they come off the transformer pole and hug the ground to surprise their prey. It was over in 30 seconds. He then flew to the edge of an aspen bluff where I lost him. Looks like SNBU’s are here to stay for the winter. Good luck everyone!
Mike Blom
Peace River, Alberta

[October 28th]
A few hundreds showed up around Chibougamau, in Northern Québec also.
We already have about 2 inches of snow here. However, we do not have
fields and they don’t come at the feeders yet, so we only see them
along forest roads for now. I might have to figure out a way to catch
them in this kind of habitat.
Alex Anctil

[October 28th]
Good morning,
I have also spotted a small flock of about 30 Snow Buntings close to my home. I heard them first and then I spotted them flying around, near a gravel pit. Yes, it’s wonderful to hear them again! Can’t wait until they show up in my back field!
Have a good day everyone,
Lise Balthazar
Lanark, Ontario

[October 28th]

[October 28th]
SNBU have reached Ontario’s south shore i.e. the north shore of Lake Erie. There was a report of a small flock (I think 8 was mentioned) at the tip of Long Point today, with one HY-F cap one HY-F captured. I spread some bait on the beach at the base of the point – I hope to start trapping early this winter.
David Hussell

So….Carl Bromwich in southern Quebec may have to eat his words: one has already been caught (and I assume banded) at Long Point in far southern Ontario.

We had a pretty good late-October day at Ruthven banding 76 birds:
1 Blue Jay
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
7 Golden-crowned Kinglets
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
13 Hermit Thrushes
10 Cedar Waxwings
2 American Tree Sparrows
1 Fox Sparrow
5 Song Sparrows
3 Swamp Sparrows
4 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
12 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 House Finches
9 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 39 spp.

Rick

1 thought on “October 28th – Cross Country (SNBU) Checkup [and Today’s Results]

  1. First snow this morning and the first flock of Snow Buntings in the fields between Hatley and Waterville, QC.

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