Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 26, 2018

by John Patterson

The weather was variable during the day, with a high of 26⁰C. In the afternoon, showers, thunderstorms and even hail rolled through some sectors. In some rural sectors roads became impassable and teams had to shorten their count, leaving some productive sites unvisited. All rural sectors were covered, as were all but two city sectors. The number of species found matched the long-term average (LTA) of 177 and the total bird count at 32609, was 2% higher than the LTA.

All-time high counts were posted for 11 species. For 8 of these the new highs continue already established long-term uptrends: Snow Goose, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Wilson’s Snipe, Philadelphia Vireo, Blue Jay, House Wren and Red-winged Blackbird. Unusual local concentrations of Ross’s Goose and Common Nighthawk established new highs for these species and a sighting of a migrating Red-headed Woodpecker by Brian Johns near Bradwell was a first ever sighting for this species on the Spring count.

Among species at risk, counts of 8 Long-billed Curlew and a remarkable 68 Sprague’s Pipit were 20- and 25-year highs respectively. These compare to average counts over these periods of 2.6 for Long-billed Curlew (1999-2017) and 19 for Sprague’s Pipit (1999-2017). On a more discouraging note only 5 Loggerhead Shrike were seen, which matches the all-time low and compares to a LTA of 18.

Waterfowl were generally abundant this year with a total count for ducks and geese 18% above the LTA, but both Common Goldeneye and Ruddy Duck were less than 50% of their LTAs. Western Grebe was 9% of the LTA and has now been near all-time lows for three years in a row. American Coot was noticeably scarce this year at 35% of the LTA.

Grouse numbers were unusually low with a combined count of only 5 for Sharp-tailed and Ruffed Grouse compared to the LTA of 27.

The Saskatoon area has been in a wet cycle for the last few years and high water levels in the sloughs, reduced shoreline habitat and minimal mudflats have resulted in depressed shorebird counts. This year with a drier Spring, lower water levels in the sloughs and expanded shoreline habitat, total shorebird numbers have recovered compared to the last few years. The total shorebird count for 2018 (5959) was 58% higher than the average count for the previous 4 years (3773), but is still only 73% of the LTA (8205).

The counts for insectivores were generally good. Least flycatcher, the kingbirds and vireos were all well above their LTAs.

The sparrows were seen in expected numbers except for White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows which were at about one third of their LTAs.

All of the blackbirds were well above their LTA, while total warblers other than Yellow Warbler were half of their LTA. Most notably among the more common warblers was Ovenbird (4 vs LTA of 11), Tennessee Warbler (7 vs LTA of 44) and Blackpoll Warbler (0 vs LTA of 9).

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