Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 24, 2014
by Craig Salisbury
The 2014 Saskatoon Nature Society’s spring bird count took place on Saturday, May 24th. Forty-seven participants reported 169 species, 6 short of the long-term average of 175 species. A total of 31,937 birds were counted, close to the average of 32,395. The weather was mild with a mostly clear sky and a high of 25° C, but sustained winds over 25 km/hr, gusting to 52 km/hr during the afternoon, were blamed for reduced numbers in some areas.
The weather for the two days preceding the count may also have had a negative effect on the count. Temperatures for May 22nd and 23rd reached 28° C and 31° C, the two hottest days of the spring. The warm weather may have been a cue for migrants that breed in northern areas to move on. As a result, reports of local permanent and summer residents made up most of the count numbers.
A new species was added to the all-time spring count, that being an American Three-toed Woodpecker, seen by Maureen DuWors and Marlene Mahoney at the old Sanatorium site at the south end of Avenue K. This is the latest date that these irregular winter visitors have been reported in the Saskatoon birding area, the previous record being February 1, 1975. This species was also recorded by Maureen’s team at the same location during the fall migration count in 2013. Society members who visited the site this past winter also noted spruce branches freshly stripped of bark, a signature mark left by our “northern” woodpeckers. There are no breeding records for this species in the Saskatoon birding area, but given the apparent residence of at least one bird at this site, observers should be on the lookout for this possibility.
Water levels in sloughs, lakes and the South Saskatchewan River were high, resulting in limited shoreline and greatly reduced island area on the river. The flow rate of the river was very swift, a point made clear to us as we watched an intact beaver lodge pass quickly by while walking the lower trail of Cosmopolitan Park. Grid roads were for the most part dry, although heavy spring flooding in some areas resulted in a few roads still being under water.
Replenished wetlands resulted in 4,942 ducks and geese being counted, above the long-term average of 4,774. Not surprisingly, with little available shore, the 5,681 shorebirds counted were only 65% of the long-term average of 8,787. The lowest numbers were recorded for “peep” and related sandpipers with only 893 recorded, compared to the average of 4,778. One Black-necked Stilt was reported by Lorne Duczek in the SW2 area. For just the second time since 1987, no Lesser Yellowlegs were reported.
Gull numbers were above average, but were one slough from being well below average. A record 3,205 white-headed gulls were reported, smashing the previous record of 1,921 seen in 2005. However, 3,000 of this year’s white-headed gulls were counted by Frank Roy’s NW2 team at a slough near Neuhorst. Had that slough been missed, this report would be noting an apparent sudden decline in the gull population!
Hawk and falcon numbers were below average, however a Broad-winged Hawk was reported by the Leighton team in the city, just the fifth time since 1987 that this species has been seen during the spring count. Only 1 American Kestrel was counted, well below the long-term average of 13.
Twelve turkey vultures were seen, tying the record set in 2012. While walking the alley between Saskatchewan Crescent and University Drive in the evening, our team spotted a soaring vulture that was soon joined by 3 more. One was tagged, and as we struggled to make out the number (most likely the famous S11 bird) we realized we were standing (appropriately) behind the Houston residence!
The variety of warblers and native sparrows was low, but total numbers for each group actually exceeded long-term averages. The ubiquitous Yellow Warbler accounted for 1,028 of the 1,074 warblers counted, while the remaining 46 birds represented just 9 additional warbler species. Eleven species of sparrows were identified from a total of 1,527 individuals, above the long-term average total for sparrows of 1,350. Nelson’s Sparrows were noticeably absent from the count.
Purple, House and Goldfinches were the only finches identified, making this only the third time since 1987 that Pine Siskins were not reported.
You can download the complete tabulated report here:
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 448, RPO University
Saskatoon, SK S7N 4J8