Winter Birds

January 3, 2018

                            “The presence of the Snow Bunting makes manifest the depth of Winter,

                                      even as the buds of the Lilac proclaim the Creator’s promise of Spring."

                                                                                                                                 -David Westfall

With temperatures plummeting below -20 C, hundreds of "Snow Birds" have begun to arrive.  A few pails of cracked corn scattered along the edge of an uncut hayfield have enticed Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and Lapland Longspurs to stop in for a winter feast.

Snow Buntings have been our most frequent visitors this year. 

 

The Snow Buntings can often be seen sitting on hydro wires that are directly above the corn.

 

 

 They drop, one by one, onto the buffet below.

Sometimes a Lapland Longspur or two appears with the Snow Buntings.

One afternoon in late December, the smaller birds were joined by a very unlikely companion:  a Peregrine Falcon sat on the hydro pole for quite some time while the Snow Buntings perched and ate within a short distance of their predator. There were no casualties, and eventually the Falcon headed out over the fields, having shown no interest in the Snow Buntings.

On another afternoon, the full moon was rising behind the Snow Buntings as they sat on their wire.  

Small Lilac trees provide perches for the Snow Buntings. 

There is usually some corn spread on a picnic table near our deck for Blue Jays and Mourning Doves, because the Snow Buntings seem to be intimidated when the larger birds fly into their corn. Sometimes however, late in the day, large flocks of Snow Buntings decide that they need all of the corn, and completely take over every one of the corn piles. 

These birds are covering the picnic table:

 

 

 

 

On New Year’s Day, we banded 93 of our Winter birds, 88 of which were Snow Buntings.

This is a Male Snow Bunting with his dark black/pure white wings and underside, and rust-coloured markings.

 


The Female has a “browner" look, and her wings look quite different from the Male’s clearly defined black and white wings.

 

 We only banded 4 Horned Larks on this particular day.

 

This Male is a Northern Horned Lark (with his yellow throat and yellow band above the eyes).  He is beginning to raise his tiny “horns” as an expression of disapproval.....

 The Female Horned Lark lacks the strong colouring and "feather-horns" of the Male.

We only banded one little Female Lapland Longspur, although several others were mixed in with the flocks that were in the area.

(Those red bander’s hands are an indication of the extreme temperatures that made handling the birds challenging!)

 

 

We are looking forward to many more close encounters with our Snow Birds during this extra-cold Winter. For the next short while, it would seem that there will be frequent trips to the Feed Mill for bags of cracked corn.......

 

 

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*Thanks, David Lamble, for braving the cold to band our Winter birds again this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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