Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 23, 2009

by

Robert Johanson and Craig Salisbury

The swallows may return to Capistrano near the same date each year, but the migration through Saskatoon is more variable as demonstrated by this year’s spring bird count. The count took place on May 23 when 51 volunteers spent the day tabulating every bird observed in the city and the countryside. The weather was excellent, and the number of species identified, 181, is above average. The total number of birds counted, over 33,000, is near the long-term average. But the interesting result from the count is the greater numbers of early migrants indicating a delay in the migration this year.
Many migrants do not stay in Saskatoon but are instead bound for either the boreal forest or the arctic. The typical dates for when they pass through our area vary from species to species. The date for the count is chosen to maximize the number of species present., but some early migrants should be well to the north on count day with at best only a few stragglers remaining. Some of these early migrating species were seen in unusually large numbers; record high counts were recorded for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Swainson’s Thrush, and Pine Siskin, all of which should be in the boreal forest by the last week of May.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are the first wood warbler seen each spring and most should have moved through by count day. This year over 200 were recorded instead of usual handful. Snow Buntings, which winter in the Saskatoon area and should be mostly gone by early May, were also seen in record numbers. The large of numbers of these birds indicates that the migration for songbirds was several weeks behind schedule this year. There are also a few species, some wood warblers and grassland birds, that in a typical year reach Saskatoon just after the spring count, but usually a few from the vanguard are seen. These were mostly absent this year.
Mourning Dove, American Robin, Brown Thrasher, and Clay-colored, Vesper and Song Sparrows were also seen in record numbers; although since these are local nesting birds, the high numbers likely had more to do with the nice weather on count day. Common Ravens also scored a new high count; they have become more common in the spring and summer in recent years. Most other birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and hawks, were seen in typical numbers.
Rarities add spice to any bird count, and this year several fortunate observers sighted species not often seen in our region. New for the spring count is the White-faced Ibis. Ibis are normally found in the southeastern states, but they have been expanding their range north and west and are now seen regularly in Saskatchewan. Other birds of note include two Wood Ducks, a Broad-winged Hawk, seven Black-necked Stilts, and a Yellow-bellied flycatcher.
You can download the complete tabulated report below:

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Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 448, RPO University
Saskatoon, SK S7N 4J8