Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Fall Migration Bird Count
September 9, 2023
by John Patterson and Stan Shadick
The forty-three participants in the Saskatoon Nature Society fall count on September 9, 2023 enjoyed mild temperatures and light winds. The species count of 157 was above the long-term average (LTA) of 152 and Bobolink was seen for the first time, bringing the total species seen in the history of the count to 235.
Wetland habitat was severely reduced as another dry year left many sloughs dry or shrunken. Despite that, the counts for several of the dabbling ducks were well above the LTA and at or near all-time highs: Blue-winged Teal (202% of LTA), Gadwall (389%), American Wigeon (216%), and Northern Pintail (939%). The highest concentrations were on Indi Lake. Other wetland birds that may be suffering the effects of habitat loss are Double-crested Cormorant (15%) and Great Blue Heron (26%).
Horned Grebe has shown a steady and dramatic decline from a high count of 171 in 2013 to a new low this year of three. The spring count has seen a less dramatic decline over the same period suggesting that fall migration may have shifted earlier and be playing a part in the low fall counts.
American Coot has been notably scarce for the last four years, averaging just 8% of the LTA, but this year thanks to a flock of several thousand on Indi Lake, the count returned to normal levels at 117% of the LTA.
Among the raptors, Turkey Vulture (309%) has set another new high count at 18. Swainson’s Hawk (107%) was relatively unaffected last year by avian influenza and was again seen in normal abundance, but the Red-tailed Hawk count (72%) on both the spring and fall counts this year is still recovering.
Barn Swallow (217%) was identified in 2012 as a threatened species and upgraded in 2021 to a species of concern, so it is encouraging to note that the count this year was an all-time high at 721.
Several sparrow species were at or near all-time highs and well above LTA: Clay-colored sparrow (276%), Dark-eyed Junco (376%), Whitecrowned Sparrow (269%), Vesper Sparrow (250%), Swamp Sparrow (484%), and Spotted Towhee (193%).
Thank you to all who participated in the count this year. We hope you will join us again on future counts.
John Patterson (compiler)
Stan Shadick (organizer)
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9