Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Fall Migration Bird Count
September 10, 2022
by John Patterson and Stan Shadick
The temperature on count day started out near zero, with a light breeze under a slightly overcast sky and by mid-afternoon had risen to 23˚C, with moderate breezes and clear sky. With Covid restrictions having been eased fewer teams were split up and party hours, which have been elevated the last two years, have returned to the normal range.
All counts in this narrative have been corrected for effort1, so valid comparisons can be made between years. Corrected counts compared to the long-term average (LTA) appear in brackets. The original counts (ie uncorrected) are shown in the accompanying tables.
The species count this year was above average at 155, but the total bird count set a new low (63% of LTA), primarily due to a near total absence of Snow Geese (2% of LTA). With a single-day snapshot it can be difficult to separate changes in abundance from changes in migration timing due to climate change. However, Snow Geese are among the most abundant species on the continent, so it appears that the timing of their migration has shifted. While spring migration has generally shifted earlier by a few days, a recent study found that fall migration has been extended by over two weeks, with early migrants leaving earlier and late migrants leaving later. As a late migrant, it appears that count day caught only the early stage of Snow Goose migration.
The counts for resident grebes were low, especially Pied-billed Grebe (12% of LTA), Horned Grebe (14% of LTA), and Eared Grebe (7% of LTA). The spring count also showed low and declining counts especially for Pied-billed and Horned Grebe.
The total duck count was 87% of the LTA, but American Wigeon count (20% of LTA) declined for the third year in a row. The gamebird count was low (37% of LTA) but this tends to be highly variable from year to year, so is not unexpected. The warbler species count was seventeen, above the LTA of 15, but the total warbler count (37% of LTA) was the lowest since 2014. Yellow-rumped Warbler (37% of LTA) dominate the count and eBird data indicate that their numbers are highest in the last three weeks of September, so count day probably preceded the peak.
New high counts were set for Turkey Vulture (394% of LTA), which has been in a long-term rising trend, Blue Jay (187% of LTA) and Horned Lark (456% of LTA). The latter count was primarily due to a flock of 200 seen in SE/C.
A Whooping Crane was spotted this year, the fourth one in the last five years. Prior to that only two had been seen in 23 years. Also, six Black-necked Stilts were seen for the first time on the fall count. They have normally departed by the end of the first week in September.
Thank you to all participants for your continued support of the SNS fall count.
1 Corrected count = Raw count x Average party hours (1995-2021) ÷ Party hours (2022).
John Patterson (compiler)
Stan Shadick (organizer)
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9