February 1st – Feeding Before the Storm

Starting last night, all the news it seems is about the impending storm: on its way up from Texas; strong winds; 30+ cm in total; cancellations galore. It is supposed to start tonight but……it’s been snowing here all day and the wind has been a factor since early this morning. I arrived at the banding site before 7:30 and found a mixed flock of 250+ birds picking over the remains of yesterday’s bait piles. Light snow was falling and the rising wind was just beginning to push it into drifts. I hurriedly put out the traps and baited them. The birds were keen to eat – somehow they know bad weather is coming and they want to get a good feed while they can. By 7:45 I was banding. No sooner had I turned around to head back to my car after baiting the traps than the birds were in them. The morning’s banding felt like a race against time. How many birds could we catch before the drifting snow became an inhibiting factor? By 10:30 we were reaching the limit: the tunnels to the traps were filling in before the birds could get into the traps themselves. I’d jump out of the car and clear them but they were full again in no time. Hmmmm….time to pack it in. Too bad, because there were lots of birds around the traps all morning just waiting for their turn to chow down.

I returned to the banding site around 4:00 PM to replenish the bait piles. There were about 200 birds feeding on the remains. Nancy and I have been talking about the coming storm. As we see it, our challenge will be to keep the bait piles available and visible to the birds in order to keep them in the area for future banding.

We had one interesting fly-by this morning: a possible Peregrine Falcon. It blasted through the site and just kept going. It was a big falcon, appearing larger than the “resident” Merlin. It was gone before anyone could even think about getting binoculars on it. But if I had to money on it, I would say….Peregrine.

Despite the short day, we handled 117 birds:

Banded 66 Snow Buntings, 8 Horned Larks, 1 Lapland Longspur

Retrapped: 16 Snow Buntings, 1 Horned Lark, 25 Lapland Longspurs


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