March 31st – Labrador Diary – Where The Boys Are

Something I never see in far southern Ontario: Snow Buntings at a feeder in amongst the trees. -DOL

We continued our chase of Snow Buntings in Forteau with pretty good success…in the morning anyway when it was overcast and there had been a light dusting of snow. But the skies cleared shortly before noon producing deep blue skies and brilliant sunshine that sparkled off the ice in the Strait of Belle Isle….and melted much of the snow that had fallen two days ago leaving bare patches which the birds find more alluring than cut corn-baited traps. Still, we banded 18 bringing our total to date up to 78. One bird though was surprising. We captured a solitary female – the first one of the trip. Usually males precede the females to the nesting grounds by 2-4 weeks in order to establish territories. Better territories are more likely to result in a male attracting a female. So getting this early female threw us off. Who knows what she was thinking!? So our male to female ratio now stands at 77:1. (At my banding site the female to male ratio is 3:1.)

For contrast: male is on the left, female on the right. -SSP

Wing detail: ASY male on the left, SY female on the right. -SSP

Another significant bird was a “foreign retrap”; i.e., a bunting that was banded in some other area. This was the 2nd such recapture. Two days ago we caught a bird that had been banded by David Lamble in February of 2022 at his banding site north of Fergus Ontario. The one this morning is still a mystery as the bander has not yet submitted the data to the Banding Office which leads me to believe that it is one that has been banded this year. It isn’t one of mine, or Nancy Furber’s, or David Lamble’s, or Bruce Murphy/Joanne Goddard’s up in New Liskeard; so maybe one of the Quesbec banders….? I’ll let you know when I find out.

Pack ice almost completely clogs the Strait of Belle Isle. -DOL

Southern Labrador sits next to the Strait of Belle Isle, the northern outlet of the St. Lawrence River. It’s a magical place where I’ve seen numerous seabirds and cetaceans….in the Summer. Right now though it’s clogged with pack ice. This makes for ideal conditions for seals that are having their pups. And polar bears that are eating the seals. I heard today that in a recent aerial survey of the ice-clogged strait 60 polar bears were spotted. I hope this is good news. On the other hand, I was told that there wasn’t the normal amount of ice out on the coast farther north so the bears were having to travel farther south to find food. Well, the food is certainly here – you just have to scan from an overview to see lots of seals – but the trip back to the Arctic will be energy intensive. Let’s hope the bears get enough to sustain that trip and the energy needs of the ensuing Summer.

The CCGS Laurier, an icebreaker, waits in the ice to assist the ferry that runs between northern Newfoundland and Blanc-Sablon. -DOL

All towns have dumps – it’s the way of the world it seems. It’s interesting how wildlife has adapted to take advantage of them. Here in Forteau it’s gulls, usually Great Black-backed, Glaucous, and Herring Gulls. But today Vernon and Sam turned up the first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the season in Labrador.

Denizens of the Forteaus dump: Lesser Black-backed Gull on the left (note the yellow legs) and a Great black-backed on the right. -SSP


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