Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Christmas Bird Count
by Michael Williams, count compiler
A fine sunny day with little wind and a high of -3°C on Boxing Day made the annual Saskatoon Christmas Bird Count an enjoyable experience for the 61 field participants. Another 39 participated as feeder watchers.
The total number of species observed, 46, tied the previous record set in 2002. The total of 13,680 birds was about average, with a few species setting record high numbers.
Open water on the river through the city enables some waterfowl to delay their southward journey, some indeed remaining all winter. Fewer Common Goldeneye (107) were present, probably as a result of the early severe cold snap in the fall which choked the river with floating ice pans, allowing little room for large numbers of ducks. Only a few Canada Geese (20) remained. Mallards (42) and Common Mergansers (2) were present as usual. Unexpected lingering ducks were one Bufflehead and one Redhead.
Game birds in adjacent rural areas are still surviving in spite of development: Sharp-tailed Grouse (24) and Gray Partridge (23).
Raptors were scarce except for the familiar urbandwelling small falcon, the Merlin (8), and a surprising record number of Sharp-shinned Hawks (4). One Northern Goshawk and one Rough-legged Hawk were sighted in rural areas. Although five Great Horned Owls were seen, no other owl species were observed this year.
The familiar Rock Pigeon (2,982) was present as usual in town, on bridges, and elsewhere. The Eurasian Collared-Dove (14), first noted in 2009 when four were discovered, appears to be reproducing successfully and may become numerous in a few years time. One gull, not identified to species, was observed at the landfill site being chased by a raven. This is the only gull sighting since a Ringbilled Gull was identified in 1958.
Downy Woodpeckers (20) and Hairy Woodpeckers (35) were less common than usual. Northern Flickers (11), most of which migrate south for the winter, were down from last year’s record 36.
The highlight this year is the unprecedented number of Common Ravens (333) in and around the city. You have probably been hearing them calling to each other in your neighborhood! Last year saw a record 108, but this year, with three times that number, it appears that ravens are adapting quickly to more southern environments, and many are now staying to nest in the district.
Notably absent for the last two years, large flocks of Bohemian Waxwings (4,038) are back, feasting on the mountain ash berries. Other winter visitors were scarce or absent. Low counts for Snow Bunting (47) and Common Redpoll (138) were noted. Two Northern Shrikes and one Hoary Redpoll were also seen, but no Pine Grosbeaks were observed. Less common visitors from the western mountains, the Varied Thrush (1) and the Townsend’s Solitaire (2) were also present.
Species lingering this year included American Crow (14), Golden-crowned Kinglet (9), Brown Creeper (7, a record high), American Robin (7), White-throated Sparrow (1), Dark-eyed Junco (5), Pine Siskin (12), American Goldfinch (2), European Starling (38), and Mourning Dove (1). A few Cedar Waxwings usually remain in the area, but this year for the first time since 1976 none were reported.
Familiar year-round resident birds were present in about average numbers: Blue Jay (58), Black-billed Magpie (422), Black-capped Chickadee (754), Red-breasted Nuthatch (156), White-breasted Nuthatch (6), House Finch (540), Red Crossbill (5), White-winged Crossbill (53), and House Sparrow (3,723).
This year the post count roundup was again hosted by May Haga at her home in Lakeview. Many thanks to May for her gracious hospitality. Thanks also to those who assisted in the process. And of course my great appreciation for all those who participated in the count. It is your enthusiasm and dedication that makes the Saskatoon count one of the best supported in North America (44th out of 2,074 last year). Best wishes for 2011.
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 448, RPO University
Saskatoon, SK S7N 4J8