March 24th – SNBU’s On The Move

I banded/saw my last Snow Bunting on February 23rd. We had had 3 weeks of Winter – cold temperatures and enough snow to cover the fields. But then Winter disappeared; the snow melted and the air warmed up and the Snow Buntings….were on their way home. (Although studies have shown that they spend over half their lives in their southern homes, so maybe they were going to the cottage….)
We’re not seeing them here now but they’re beginning to show up at sites on their route north. Birds in Ontario seem to migrate out the St. Lawrence until they get to Labrador and then head north, many of them making the trek all the way to Greenland. Interestingly though, well over half of Canadian Snow Buntings (something like 65%) spend the Winter on the southern Prairies. Sadly, no one seems to be banding them there so not a lot is known about their travel routes. As you will see from Bill Maciejko’s post below we are really missing the boat with this population. There seems to be a divide: if you draw a line south through Hudson Bay you will find that eastern Arctic/Greenland birds winter in Ontario/Quebec and they migrate using the St. Lawrence/Labrador route. The other Arctic Snow Buntings winter west of this imaginary line and travel more north-south to get to their breeding grounds but west of Hudson Bay. It would be interesting to know where Julie Bauer’s birds in the Yukon come from (see below).

The breath-taking back-drop to Julie’s banding area in Haines Junction. -JB

(Yes Rick, please use the picture, community is Haines Junction.  We do live in a gorgeous area.) Busy with buntings now but catching quite a few we have banded in the last couple of days, waiting for an influx of new birds. Getting some recaps from last year and two from 2018, some 5 yr olds. We still have tons of snow.
Cheers

Julie Bauer
Haines Junction, Yukon
Hello, Well, I started in 2014 but was still working as a nurse and now retired. Basically it is myself and my husband that do all the banding. In busy times  I have asked for help from migration station staff but they all live in Whitehorse, 11/2 hrs away. All banding done in the community of Haines Junction. Am the only  SNBU bander in the Yukon and unfortunately none others in Alberta or BC. Have attached one picture of a busy site when we have both of us working. Usually we work alone at 2 different locations and love it when we have a scribe. We do involve the local community and youth in the project.
Have attached a list of birds banded. We have quite a few recaptures of our own birds. Had had two foreign recaps of our birds.
I have sent you our data over the years, did I send 2020?Are there any specific pictures you would like??
All for now. Busy day banding and have about 3 weeks to go depending on the weather of course.
Smiles
Julie Bauer
Haines Junction, Yukon

SNOW BUNTINGS BANDED

2014                   32
2015                  136
2016                  239
2017                1173
2018                1643
TOTAL TO END OF 2018=3222
2019 No birds banded
2020                2338
TOTAL BANDED   5561
YEAR TO YEAR RECAPTURES
2016 first recap of 2015 banded bird
2017 two recaps( 1 from 2015, 1 from 2016)

2018 7 recaps (5 from 2017,1 from 2016,1 from 2015) 1F

2019 2 other recap (1Barrow,1 Dawson Creek, both 2018 banded)

2020 14 recaps (4 from 2017,10 from 2018) 1F

(Only 2 females recaps)

 Year to year recaps: total 24 at Haines Junction, 2(1recovery, 1 released)= 26

March 21st:

Hi Rick,

Funny you should ask….[in response to a request for SNBU sightings…]

Still no sightings at my location (west of Camp Morton, MB), but this morning I received the following message from Dan Good, a birder of several years experience:

“I was on the Stead Flats yesterday [March 20] and saw four large flocks of snow buntings each between 10 and 50 acres in size. 100’s of thousands of them.”

Stead is at the south end of Lake Winnipeg, on the east side. Area is a mix of agricultural fields/pastures and areas of marsh/swamp, a good place to stop and refuel.

All the best,

Bill Maciejko

Camp Morton, Manitoba

[When I read something like the above I just can’t get over the lost opportunity…… and I’d never heard of birds being measured by the acre before.]

March 23rd:

Hi Rick we lost our buntings 2 weeks ago and March is usually our best month – so disappointed. It was plus 18 today.

We are still getting redpolls and evening grosbeaks and redwings and a few other migrants are starting to arrive . Hopefully u catch one of our rwbl in your j trap; we usually band close to 200 a year.

Bruce Murphy

New Liskeard, ON

March 14th:

It appears the Snow Buntings have gone; I haven’t seen them since
Thursday. I will miss them, their sweet chatter and their beautiful
maneuvers in the bright blue winter sky.

From this – Snow Bunting flocks busily feeding below the feeders…… -NC

And as usual, this is the time of year where the bright white birds are
replaced by the stark black ones; I have about 150 to 160 Red Winged
Blackbirds right now.

To this: Red-winged blackbirds busily feeding beneath the feeders…… -NC

I thought the Redpolls were starting to go too, but this blustery, cold
weather had brought them back to the feeders.

A flurry of male Red-winged Blackbirds. -NC

Lise Balthazar
Lanark Co. ON

March 22
Hi Rick,
We are done with SNBU banding here, I haven’t tallied the results yet. I could do so this week but definitely not get to the sex ratios haha, so much data to enter!

Simon Duvall

Montreal Area, QC

[Yann Rochepault bands at Riviere-St.-Jean on the north shore of the St. Lawrence across from Anticosti Island. He usually doesn’t start to see Snow Buntings until April…..although with this weather he may be in for a surprise…]

As I mentioned earlier, it appears that Snow Buntings from Ontario/Quebec head out the St. Lawrence River and then north through Labrador. Since the birds have left the southern part of their Winter range they must be heading in that direction. I was hoping that Yann had started to pick them up. But they are just starting to show up in Labrador. Last year I chanced into a Facebook group that I found fascinating: “The Snow Bunting Project – 2020”. On it bird observers posted their sightings – where and how many. This initiative was spear-headed by Cheryl Davis and Vernon Buckle. At the end of the season Cheryl sent me a spreadsheet detailing the sightings. The 2nd week of April was the time to be there!

They have continued the project this year: “The Snow Bunting Project – 2021”. I would encourage you to look it up and follow it. You get a good picture of where the birds are, when they arrive and a great lesson in geography when you look up the places mentioned. (A favourite of mine is St. Lewis at the SE end of Labrador. One of the first foreign recoveries of one of “my” birds was in St. Lewis.)

Below Cheryl lists the early (March) sightings from 2020. 

“Thought the group might be interested in these numbers from 2020:}

Jan 26 – 18 SB – Double Mer

  • Seen sometime between March 1-15 – 2 flocks of 6-10 each

Rigolet

  • Seen sometime between March 1-15 –15 SB – Kauk

March 17 – 2 SB – Carter Basin (Kenemich)

March 19 – 24 SB – Northwest River Pitts

March 20 – 6 SB – Cartwright

March 20 – 3 SB – Nain

March 21 – 2 SB – Nain

March 22 – 1 SB – English Point

March 23 – 12 SB – North River

March 23 – 1 SB – Cartwright

March 23 – 6 SB – St. Lewis

March 24 – 4 SB – Nain

March 24 – 1 SB – St. Lewis

March 25 – 2 SB – Cartwright

March 25 – 2 SB – Northwest River

March 25 – 1 SB – Muscrat Falls

March 25 – 30 SB – Happy Valley / Goose Bay

March 25 – 1 SB – St. Lewis

And here’s how things are shaping up so far this year (taken from the current Facebook page):

Eva Luther makes these reports from St. Lewis: March 12 – 3; March 20 – 16; March 21 – 30.

Snow Buntings taking in the evening sun in St. Lewis, Labrador. -Eva Luther

March 18 – Cheryl posted this comment from some New Brunswick birders: “Sometimes it is about what we don’t see while birding. Snow Buntings noticeably absent in Cap Lumiere and Chochpish, Kent Co., NB” [Are they now in Labrador?}

March 19 – “…first snowbird in Makkovik”  [Mary Andersen]

March 21 – “had 2 all weekend in Anaktalak Bay” [Garnet Blake]

One of two buntings that spent the weekend in Anaktalak Bay, Labrador. Garnet Blake

March 21 – “Confirmed sighting of 2 buntings in Ivujivik; most northerly village in Nunavik.”  [Allen Gordon]

March 21 – ~90 in Goose Bay North Side [Norma Knight]

March 23 – 25-30 in Wabush [Carissa Bagnell]

March 24 – 25 – 30 just outside North West River [Joseph Townley]

So follow The Snow Bunting Project – 2021. If it’s anything like last year you will see that the “explosion” will take place in about another 2 weeks. The birds making up this explosion are somewhere between Montreal and St. Lewis…..

Rick

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