January 15th – Winter…….At Last

The first bird of the Winter season: a young female Lapland Longspur.

So far it has been a mild, wet Winter but, finally….we’ve begun to get some cold, Winter temperatures; it was -17 C last night going into sunrise this morning. And, although there was just a dusting of snow over the fields (and none on the gravel pad where I set my traps) I figured it was worth the chance of getting out to see if i could get some birds. The traps were set by 8:10. Although I hadn’t seen any birds when I arrived it took only 5 minutes for a mixed flock of Snow Buntings (~30) and Horned Larks (~10) to land to check them out. They were very flighty, setting down around the traps briefly and then flying up, swirling around, and then landing again. This went on for 5 minutes and then…..they were gone, off to the west. But, what’s this!? There was a bird bouncing around in one of the traps! Looked a little smaller than the larks and buntings…sure enough it was. Lapland Longspur – the first Arctic-nesting migrant of the season. What a treat!

I hadn’t picked it out in the swirling mass of the flock. But it hadn’t taken it long to get caught. And it didn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve discovered that, when they do show up, they have an uncanny ability to find their way into the traps – and the food – very quickly. I’m not sure why this is the case but, if they come to the traps, they invariably get to the corn quickly while their compatriots spend a great amount of time ambling round and round them trying to figure out how to get to the corn. The Longspurs just seem to be better spatial problem solvers: go down the tunnel, make a right, and presto, a cornucopia.

Half an hour later a group of 9 Horned Larks showed up and one of these was trapped as well. So it was a good morning and a good start to the season. The cold helps greatly; snow cover would help even more.

Sarah (and her Mom) have made sewing bird bags and art form. They made 55 of them over the holidays and each one is beautiful (even more so when there’s birds in them). DOL


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