Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 24, 2008


Robert Johanson and Craig Salisbury

Each year, many birds migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of the summer abundance at high latitudes. Migrants arrive in Saskatchewan as early as March for some species and as late as June for others. The greatest diversity of migrants usually occurs in the fourth week of May with the arrival of the songbirds that winter in the tropics and the shorebirds that winter in South America. At this time the Saskatoon Nature Society conducts its annual spring bird count. The bird count is a sampling of all the birdlife in and around Saskatoon. Teams of bird watchers cover specified areas either in the city or the countryside and record every bird seen or heard.
There was great uncertainty going into the count this year since the migration, which was ahead of schedule early on, stalled due to the cool weather that settled in much of the midwest in mid-April. In the end, the count results proved quite average both in number of species seen, 171, and total number of birds, 37874.
The most numerous specie was the American Coot with nearly 3100 counted, a spring count record high for this bird. Abundant water in sloughs and potholes benefitted not only coots but also ducks and grebes. Shorebirds also liked the wet landscape especially Stilt Sandpipers and Red-necked Phalaropes both of which had counts well in excess of 2000. The tiny shorebirds known by bird watchers as peeps were equally abundant, although due to difficulty in separating them, most of the nearly 4000 sighted were not identified to species. Another shorebird, the Pectoral Sandpiper, had a new high count of 297.
Eleven other species also had new high counts. Noteworthy among them are Lark Sparrow (46) which seemed to be everywhere this year, House Finch (141) whose numbers are again climbing in the city after plateauing for several years, Common Raven (41) whose summertime population continues to increase, and Purple Martin (669), another good year for these insect eaters.
Most songbirds were seen in their usual numbers although once again the diversity of warblers proved disappointing. Although 15 warbler species were sighted, nine of those had fewer than ten birds counted. Franklin’s Gulls also proved scarce in most areas. Nearly all of the 1652 Franklin Gulls counted occurred in areas southwest of the city. Numbers of Mountain Bluebirds were also low.
New to the spring count were five Black-necked Stilts at Goose Lake, southwest of the city. Stilts, which are found in Alberta, have been expanding into Saskatchewan in recent years. The ones at Goose Lake will likely nest there, and providing conditions remain to their liking, we can expect to see more of these elegant waders in future years.
Other exciting sightings included several Ferruginous Hawks and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Two groups spied Black-crowned Night-Herons eating Tiger Salamanders; either there must be an abundance of salamanders about or the herons find them especially tasty.
You can download the complete tabulated report below:

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Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9

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Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9