Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Christmas Bird Count
by Michael Williams, count compiler
Unfortunately, the temperature was -27°C at sunrise, and did not improve greatly all day. However, it was sunny and winds were light, and by mid-afternoon walking around outside was beginning to feel tolerable. Another drawback was the thick coating of hoarfrost on the trees which substantially reduced visibility for most of the day and did not encourage bird activity.
The 54 intrepid field participants managed to count only 9,191 birds, the lowest number since 1997. Even so, these represented 43 different species, which is slightly higher than average. Another 55 feeder watchers contributed to these totals.
Along the river, Canada Geese (851) were still present. They remain for as long as they are able to feed in the stubble fields nearby. Our winter ducks, the Common Goldeneyes (222) were less numerous than usual. Mallards (19) and one Common Merganser were the only other waterbirds identified.
A lone Bald Eagle remained perched in the trees near the river along Saskatchewan Crescent West. Northern Goshawks (2), Merlins (4), and one unidentified small accipiter were the only other raptors seen. Four Great Horned Owls were observed and two Short-eared Owls, one of which was seen catching a meadow vole.
Among game birds, only 14 Gray Partridge were seen and only three Sharp-tailed Grouse, the lowest count since 1964. One Ruffed Grouse was seen, not in the countryside where it might be expected, but in Lakeview Park in the city!
Only 1,749 Rock Pigeons showed up, well down from last year’s record 4,313. They tend to stay hidden under cover in very cold weather.
One of the highlights of this year’s count was the presence of four Eurasian Collared-Doves. This species, introduced into the Bahamas, has been spreading across North America. They are already a common sight in Swift Current and other communities in the province, and appear to have nested successfully in Saskatoon in 2009. They could well become a common sight in the city in the next few years.
Among the birds frequently seen at feeders: Northern Flicker (36) set a new record, as did Red-breasted Nuthatch (263) and Pine Siskin (292), and Black-capped Chickadees (808) were more than usually plentiful. Other species were Blue Jay (15, the lowest since 1988), White-breasted Nuthatch (2), Dark-eyed Junco (14), House Finch (383, lowest since 2000, but they often stay silent and hidden on very cold days), Downy Woodpecker (31), Hairy Woodpecker (23), and House Sparrow (3,206).
Northern winter visitors and lingering migrants: Brown Creeper (2), Golden-crowned Kinglet (4), American Robin (19, but mostly outside the city limits this year), Bohemian Waxwing (34, a new record low number), Cedar Waxwing (93), Northern Shrike (1), Harris’s Sparrow (1), Snow Bunting (348), Red Crossbill (42), White-winged Crossbill (21), Common Redpoll (104, mostly outside the city), Hoary Redpoll (1), Horned Lark (11), and American Crow (5).
Other resident birds: Black-billed Magpie (370), Common Raven (108, a new record high), and European Starling (61).
This year the post count round-up was graciously hosted by May Haga at her home in Lakeview. The warm food and drink was greatly appreciated by the counters coming in from the cold! Thanks to May for her effort and also to those who assisted her in the preparations. I would also like to thank Hilda Noton and Marlene Kalanack who assisted me at the round-up table.
And, of course, my thanks to all who took part in the count this year; may you all enjoy some great birding in 2010.
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 448, RPO University
Saskatoon, SK S7N 4J8