March 30th – Labrador Diary: Gettin’ Rollin’

A brilliant male Snow Bunting sporting a yellow plastic band which will indicate to anyone that sees it that this was a bird banded in southern Labrador. -SSP

The main reason for our coming to southern Labrador was to start what we hope will be a long term banding/monitoring program of Snow Buntings. We don’t know much about this bird and need to find out so we can assess the impacts of climate change both on it and on the ecosystem it represents. Banding recoveries so far have shown that many buntings that spend the Winter in southern Ontario and Quebec migrate along the St. Lawrence River and to Labrador but very little is known about how they move through this province and where they’re going (although quite a few have been recovered in Greenland – one of “my” birds, in fact). But there has never been any banding in Labrador. We’re hoping to change that, first by doing the banding ourselves but then teaching interested birders here how to go about it.

Male Snow Bunting sitting on a trap. -SSP

When we arrived a couple of days ago there was lots of snow…but there were also lots of bare patches – evidently it hasn’t been a very severe Winter and locals feel the birds are coming early. When there’s bare patches it’s also difficult to attract Snow Buntings to cut corn baited traps. So until today we had only banded 4 birds. But last night we got a 10 centimeter drop of fresh snow which covered up all the bare spots. This brought the birds to the traps! We banded 52 today In Forteau.

Mary Yetman in Red Bay holds one of “her” birds. Her feeding efforts didn’t go unrewarded. -SSP

There had been reports of “Snow birds” at Red Bay which is about a 45 minute drive to the East. Several people have been feeding for awhile and as many as 35 at a time have been reported. In the afternoon we headed down there to see for ourselves and to try to catch some of them. They hadn’t got the snow that we had so there was a great deal of exposed ground. But….there was a flock of close to 30 still in the area and had been coming to the feed area all day so we put out some traps and caught 4 more. Red Bay is a magical little community which hugs the coast surrounded by rolling rocky hills. The water in the bay held Black Guillemots, Thick-billed Murres, Glaucous and Great Black-backed Gulls.

Thick-billed Murres in flight. -SSP

Hard to make out…but these are Black Guillemots in Winter or Basic plumage. -SSP

There was a lot more action in Forteau besides buntings though. Vernon Buckle has a number of feeders on the go and these were being kept busy by Common Redpolls. We decided what the heck and put out a trap to see if we could get them too. We ended up banding 18. So a good day all round.

Male Common Redpoll -SSP

SSPMuch more subdued plumage in the female Common Redpoll. –


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