Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snow Bunting Blindness!

Yesterday, thanks to Skip, I had the privilege of spending the day with David banding Snow Buntings, can you imagine how I suffered through that??? OMGOMGOMGOMG

Before meeting Skip in Caledon, I enjoyed a spectacular sunrise in the country:

Don't let it be said that we birders are in a rut when it comes to our Tim Horton's pit stops, here's absolute proof that we're always open to supporting the competition who knew??!! :

 Skip makes sure there's no room for confusion as to where the drive-through entrance is:

So armed with our hot beverages from Eddie's I'm sorry but it just doesn't have the same ring that "Timmie's" does , we arrived at Susan's beautiful country home on the outskirts of Fergus where bird bander David had already set up his ground traps for Snow Buntings.

A Master Bander, last year David banded a total of 15,036 individual birds of 101 different species, setting a new record for Snow Buntings, banding  8,101 of them! In fact one of his banded Snow Buntings from a year ago was seen in Greenland three months later, this bird had travelled 3,286 kilometres!

The wire traps have an opening on the side for the birds to enter, attracted by the birdseed that David has left for them, but they're unable to find their way out of the traps. David makes his way over to see how many customers have arrived at the grand opening of his new restaurant:

The place is so popular that there's already a line-up to get in!

Here I am with David, watching him carefully remove the birds from a secret door on top of the trap and put them in cloth bags for banding. Thanks go to Skip for taking photos of me for a change for the blog but now everyone will see what a total nerd I am:

The Bag Lady:

The bags of birds are lined up outside David's truck for banding. The amount of time they spend inside the truck is limited as these birds from the Arctic are not used to warm temperatures. Now that assumes it was warm in the truck, which it was not....

David shows Skip and I how to safely handle the bird without harming it:

The band goes on the right leg, presumably right-side up for ease of reading the numbers from it later if ever recovered...

 ...checking to see that the band is on properly so as not to injure the bird with any sharp or misaligned edges:

David examines the bird to determine its sex, age, weight, body mass, and wing length, which is all recorded on a spreadsheet. If the bird is already banded, the band information is also duly noted. In some cases, tiny nail-clippings and feathers were also kept for later analysis. The majority of David's birds from Susan's fields are males, for some unknown reason.

BTW, that furry-looking thing under the Snow Bunting is not an animal, it's David's hat!

Here I am shaking like a leaf, holding my first ever Snow Bunting, eventually releasing him back into the wild, OMG! Thanks again to Skip for the photos:

I couldn't wipe the smile off my face- until David told me he was going to let me do some of the banding. And I thought I was shaking before!  When I began my day, all I had hoped for was to perhaps release one of these beauties, but to be given the opportunity to do more than this was phenomenal. Even if I was left-handed, which made for some interesting times when taking wing measurements. And putting the bird upside down into a empty roll of toilet paper to weigh him, then to safely extract him from the roll, yikes! I also learned during the release that a bird lying on its back will not move. Period. Even if you move your hand a bit to give him a hint, he will not fly off, he has to be turned over for take- off!

And to make things even better, Susan prepared us a delicious meal of Julia Childs' French onion soup accompanied by fresh sandwiches, while her German Shepherd "Adonis" chills on the sofa in the background:


Skip and I re-joined David outside for some bird photography before heading back to the city. He shared with us that a female American Kestrel had somewhat wreaked havoc on his restaurant, sadly taking out one of the Snow Buntings, but she has to stay alive too, right?? We had hoped to capture her for banding as well, but she lost interest in the area.

Skip and I went insane taking photos, so sit back and enjoy!

To shamelessly steal Skip's comparison, dozens of Snow Buntings adorned a tree. It may be advantageous to double-click on the photos for more detail on these porcelain beauties, then hit the "back" button to return to the blog:

When I enlarged this next photo, I discovered that at least three of the six Snow Buntings were banded, perhaps even by yours truly? Mine would be easily identified by the upside-down bands, as I was hard-pressed to see which side was up since I was so nervous  terrified   petrified  excited the whole time! 

By the time Skip and I left, David told me approximately ninety Snow Buntings had been banded he certainly made up for lost time as I was ridiculously slow with my babies:

It's now a day later and I still cannot wipe the smile off my face! On our way home, Skip told me that I've probably held more SNBU in my hands than most people have even seen, which really has given me something to ponder as I reflect back on this magical day.

When asked what bird species was his favorite, David replied to me: "The one that I'm holding in my hand". How true, now I know what he means!

Many thanks again to Skip, David, and Susan for one of the best days ever!

1 comment:

Alison said...

This is absolutely fascinating for the lay person to read. The way you describe it is whimsical as well which is part of the appeal. I worry about the sheer terror that these little birdies must feel while they're being gently and humanely banded, but of course they'll forget as soon as they're on the wing again. Not bird brained for nothing, right?