Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stormy Weather Buntings

It has been a snowy day with a strong east wind combined with fresh snow to make a very white day. With the drifting snow mixed with fresh falling snow visibility has been around 1 mile or less. It was in this white swirling world that our first local snow buntings arrived for the new season. The first one arrived at 1100 hr and was happy to find the feeder and went right to eating. The second male arrived about two hours later, and the first bird wasn’t to happy about having to share the food dish. It is always fun to watch them bathing in the soft snow, digging their heads in the fluffy snow and working it around then shaking off, real snow birds.

The first bird still had a lot of brown on his head and part of a breast band since he is a second year bird (SYR) having been born last June. The second male is at least older than SYR and only had a small amount of brown on his head.

The attached photo shows the SYR male. There is a warm front

moving SNBU1_0459north over the Brooks Range tonight bring warmer temperatures and a wind change back to the west. By 2100 hr we were already starting to warm up with a temperature of +16F. This weather front may bring more bunting north.


Monday, April 20, 2009

No New Birds, Just a Lovely Red Fox

Well it turns out that the snow bunting that was sighted in the evening of the 18th was just passing through. So we still don’t have any birds feeding at the feeder yet.

We did have a lovely visitor this afternoon that stayed around for about a half hour looking for fish scrapes that our dog Toby had left about. We have had both the red fox and a couple white foxes around but lately they have been around only at night, and just their tracks visible in the morning light to let one know they were here .AF_Tracks_2945RF_Face1_0414

Today the male red fox came by as we were getting ready for lunch and we watched him out the kitchen window. The snow drifts are so deep around the house that he came right up and looked in the window! I was able to get a picture of him looking at us looking at him. RedFox3sm_0435He then check other area in the yard then headed back up river towards the area that has nice sand dunes where there has been a den for many years.

It was bright sunshine for most of the day and our warmest so far this month getting up to +9F. The wind has also changed direction and is starting to blow from the south so maybe that combined with warmer temperatures will bring the snow buntings. It has been a cold spring and looking back to 2004 we had seven snow buntings here on this date.

Take Care


Friday, April 17, 2009

Snow Bunting Seen

After days of reading reports from father south that snow buntings were seen on the move, one finally snowed up here in the arctic.  I was out for a evening walk with Toby our Chesapeake  when we saw a snow bunting fly by.  I thought it might  hang around the buildings since there was a stiff breeze and still cold with the evening temperature at –6F.  Instead it kept on going following the river off to the NE.  Hopefully there are more not far behind.

April has continued to be cold and the low last night was –18F,but it has been warming up some during the day with the long sun light hours.  


The picture if from last spring of one of our local breeding birds feeding on insects that were melting out of the lake ice during breakup.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Banding Red-throated Loons

With the long days and warm sunshine, we now have 15 hours, one knows that winter is about over and the return of the Arctic nesting birds is not far away. We are expecting our first snow bunting any day now as reports have them moving off winter areas in western Alaska.

Thinking about the return of the birds brought back memories of a banding experience I had with two of my boys Isaac and Aaron while banding red-throated loons ten years ago. Isaac had raised two geese ( a White-fronted and a Canada) over the summer, and they had the run of the place and followed him about when he was out side. Towards the end of August we loaded up our banding gear and nets and headed out into the local nesting ponds to catch and band young loons. We had about 20 broods of red-throated loons that year in the smaller ponds that surround the largest lake on the island we live on. We used the nets to skim the young loons out of the ponds, while nearly full grown they were still not capable of flight.

Isaac's geese came right along with us and helped in all phases of the banding operation. Swimming along behind the net as it was moved across the ponds, and then settling down next to us and we processed the birds. At times picking at the netting and banding gear. I have posted a few pictures from that banding day, but hopefully I will have more current bird pictures to put up shortly.
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Arctic Smoke Signals by James W. Helmericks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.