Here is a word that every Kerns student needs to learn; serendipity. It means chance, luck, fate, destiny, or happenstance. If you are a bander, you embrace all of these ideas and live life believing in serendipity. Here I am pushing my luck, so I should get to the point. On February 15th, a bander at Ruthven Park made a great discovery connecting her to the Kerns Public students. Ruthven Park is located 585 km south of us. It lies In Cayuga country - the land between Lake Erie and lake Ontario, just south of Hamilton. The bander was Nancy Furber, who, as luck would have it, is a friend of the Hilliardton Marsh and journeyed here a couple of falls ago to help us band owls.
Nancy Furber and Rick Ludkin got us involved in Snow Bunting banding, which is lucky for us. Nancy had her traps out on Feb. 15th and captured a bird that was banded by the Kerns kids on Jan. 6th, 2013.
On that particular day, Joanne had to wait until the afternoon to band, as temperatures were too cold that morning. As luck would have it, she happened to have a very keen student who urged her to keep the traps set after school to allow them to catch more birds. So it came to pass that after school, instead of heading home, Brodie, Neil and Joanne banded a bird that otherwise may never have been banded. After being banded, who knows where this bird wandered. This bird had the chance to carry his band somewhere north, or maybe east, perhaps even as far as Greenland. All we know for sure is that it made it all the way to Cayuga country to find itself in another trap to complete this loop in its history and give us some insight into the wanderings of these beautiful birds.
To add to the mystery of these winter travellers, we also had a bunting banded by the Kerns kids show up this winter in a trap set out by our friends Glen and Theresa, who have also journeyed to the Marsh and actually helped us band Snow Buntings at the Kerns site one weekend. This bird was caught by Glenn and Theresa at their site near King City, just north of Toronto. Another piece of the puzzle we can add is that another bird the Kerns kids banded two years ago was captured by another bander in the south, a fellow named David Lamble, last winter near Guelph, Ontario. These lucky encounters have allowed researchers at the University of Windsor, who are studying the movements of Snow Buntings, to conclude that our northern population of buntings mix with southern populations and do not represent a distinct population. Early on, researchers speculated that our buntings might only migrate as far south as the Little Clay Belt to feed in the winter, and then migrate back north to breed on the tundra.
The last birds to report on are two birds that were banded by the Kerns kids last winter that showed up in the Gaspe Bay Peninsula two months later, presumably on their way to Greenland. We cannot wait for one of the “Kerns birds” to show up in Greenland to establish that as a potential breeding destination for birds found wintering here. So how did the Kerns birds get to Gaspe Bay? Did they travel south, then hug the north shore of Lake Ontario until they found the St Lawrence and used that historical river as a handrail guiding their migration? Or did the buntings simply fly east from our area until they reached Gaspe Bay? We will never know for sure. I do know that I am extremely proud of the fine work these students are doing and that they are adding a great deal to the research that is being done one these handsome, winter-hardy birds. The work they are doing is also appreciated by the wider banding community, and most certainly by the Canadian Snow Bunting Network. Every bird they band gives us a chance to find out where these birds travel, if we get lucky enough to have them retrapped by another bander. Most banders will tell you that the more we start to find out about the movements of birds the more questions we have. Right now, I certainly have more questions than answers. One thing I do know for sure is, if you ask a Kerns student why so many of the birds they band get caught by other banders, they will smile and simply tell you it is serendipity!