Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 28, 2011

by Craig Salisbury

The annual spring migration bird count was held on Saturday, May 28. While the weather on count day was considerably better than last year’s cold, wet and windy conditions, gusting winds and afternoon precipitation were at least partly responsible for below average numbers of birds and species. The other factor was too much water. Just 25,298 birds were counted, more than 20% below the long-term average of 32,491. Only 168 species were identified, the fourth lowest number since 1987.
Water was everywhere, with sloughs filled to capacity and beyond, grid roads under water, and a near record flow for the river. Birds associated with water were in short supply, however. The numbers of grebes, coots, pelicans, cormorants and white-headed gulls were down significantly. Even some duck species were reported at lower than average numbers.
The most drastic decline was seen in shorebirds, with totals for some species barely reaching 10% of the long-term average. The low numbers were undoubtedly due to the distinct lack of ‘shore’ – that wide area of shallow water at the edge of sloughs and lakes where these birds normally feed. In many cases high water levels meant the side of the road was the shoreline. The good news was most of the shorebird species one would expect to see at this time of the year were present.
There were a few species of water-loving birds that were seen in greater than usual numbers. Thirty-seven Red-necked Grebes were counted, exceeding last year’s record of 36 by one. A tally of 540 Sanderlings by Robert Johanson’s team pushed this species past the long-term average by 70%, and the discovery by Phil Taylor of a breeding colony of Common Terns just north of the city helped set a new record of 66, surpassing the previous record of 47 set in 1990.
Magpie and crow numbers remained depressed as these two species continue to recover from the effects of the West Nile virus. A record high 78 Common Ravens were seen, beating the previous record of 67 set last year. The raven population has been steadily increasing in our area since the late 1990s.
Only 12 species of warblers were reported, for a total of 946 birds. Of those, a record high 842 were Yellow Warblers, surpassing the previous record of 798 set in 2007.
Numbers were up for some species that nest in our area. House Wren numbers were almost double the long-term average at 363 birds, a record 908 American Robins beat last year’s record of 822, Gray Catbird numbers were up by 76%, and the previous record of 312 American Goldfinches, set in 2007, was displaced by this year’s count of 406.
Rare species reported included two Greater Scaup (Stan Shadick’s team), two Cattle Egrets (Lorne Duczek’s team), a Golden Eagle, three Virginia Rails (both Guy Wapple’s team), two Whimbrels (Frank Roy’s team), and a Eurasian Collared-Dove (Nick Saunders in his neighbourhood, prior to joining Guy Wapple).
You can download the complete tabulated report below:

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