Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 26, 2012

by Craig Salisbury

The 2012 spring count was held on May 26th. The weather was mild, dry and reasonably calm except for gusting winds for a few hours in the early afternoon. Although almost 35 mm of rain had fallen in the area several days prior to the count, only a few of the teams counting in rural areas reported problems with grid roads. These conditions contributed to the identification of 181 species, six above the long-term average of 175, with a total of just over 32,600 birds, close to the long-term average of 32,500.
One new species was added to the all-time spring list. Don Weidl alerted the other members of Ron Jensen’s team to the first Orchard Orioles identified during a spring count. The two birds were seen approximately 10.5 km WNW of Hanley. In addition, a number of species seen infrequently on past spring counts were found. They included a White-winged Scoter, Red-breasted Mergansers, a Bald Eagle, Black-necked Stilts, Western Sandpipers, Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Eurasian Collared-Doves, a Philadelphia Vireo and a Western Tanager.
Water fowl numbers were average for the most part. A record 27 Snow Geese were seen, beating the 1995 record of 23, and 50 Red-necked Grebes eclipsed the previous record of 37 set last year.
Hawk numbers were average save for Northern Harriers, whose numbers were down from the long-term mean by over 40%.
Most shorebird numbers were down, caused in part by a lack of shore due to high water levels. However, 79 Ruddy Turnstones were seen, smashing the previous record of 31 set in 1987. The bulk of the birds (62) were seen by Stan and Jan Shadick. Gull and tern numbers were also low, although a breeding colony of Common Terns in the north end of the city kept their numbers above the long-term average.
A record 135 Warbling Vireos were identified, surpassing the 97 counted in 1998. Their unique song makes identification of these otherwise inconspicuous birds easy for novice and expert alike. The similarly distinctive song of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet enabled 35 individuals to be counted, beating the record of 19 set in 2004.
Magpies and crows continued their slow recovery from the low numbers seen in 2008, when West Nile virus contributed to a significant decline in their populations. Their numbers, however, are still below the long-term averages. The number of Ravens, on the other hand, continued to increase, setting a record of 141 birds and almost doubling last year’s count of 78.
Two common summer residents broke the 1,000 mark this year. One thousand and thirteen robins (old record 908, last year) and 1,097 Yellow Warblers (old record 842, also last year) should ensure that those who sleep with their bedroom windows open will be seeing a lot of sunrises.
In total 1,174 warblers were counted. The 77 that weren’t Yellow Warblers represented 14 species, including Connecticut, Wilson’s and Canada Warblers. Any count that includes 15 species of warblers is a good count!
Non-summer resident sparrows were scarce, with only 1 Swamp and 4 White-throated Sparrows counted. After their numbers leveled off last year (155 compared to 156 in 2010), a record 210 House Finches were counted.
For us the highlight of the count was not a bird but a Monarch butterfly that visited our garden around noon. This is the first recorded sighting for the spring count, but not the earliest record for the province, which is May 23rd.
You can download the complete tabulated report here:


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Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9

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