Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Fall Migration Bird Count
by Robert Johanson
The 2007 Saskatoon area fall bird count proved a record breaker. The 158 species identified easily eclipsed the old high mark of 150 for a September count. And although the 57,379 birds counted is not a record, 28 species did have new high counts including five new species. The superb results were helped by mild weather in early September and on count day, September 8th.
Large skeins of geese were flying south through the Saskatoon area on count day resulting in the Snow Goose being the most numerous bird, nearly 17,000 were counted. Close behind was the American Coot with 13,700. The local coot population has exploded in recent years with the return of wet conditions. Other waterfowl with high counts included Northern Shoveler and Ruddy Duck; numbers for both species were significantly above average.
The five species never before seen on a September count were Cackling Goose (a species recently split from Canada Goose), Clark’s Grebe, Ferruginous Hawk (two were sighted by different teams), White-rumped Sandpiper, and Dunlin. The sandpiper was a particularly unusual sighting as most white-rumps migrate along the coast in the autumn; very few are seen in the interior.
Other rare sightings included an American Black Duck which is an eastern species that has declined in the last few decades, a Broad-winged Hawk, two late Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a Say’s Phoebe, a Gray-cheeked Thrush, Sprague’s Pipits, and Lark and Fox Sparrows.
Counters found fifteen species of sparrow; the most numerous were the locally nesting Vesper Sparrow but there were nearly as many of the migrant White-throated Sparrow. Sixteen species of wood warblers were seen, the most common by far being the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Numbers of hawks, blackbirds and finches were typical for the time of year. Either the mild weather or the somewhat early date for the count resulted in a variety of flycatchers seen and a large number of Barn Swallows. These birds tend to migrate south before September and usually only a few stragglers are seen on count day.
One area of concern highlighted by the count is the numbers of corvids and in particular American Crows. Only 244 crows were seen this year; the average for the fall count is over 2000. Crows are conspicuous birds and it is unlikely that the count teams missed them. Crows are affected by West Nile virus more than other birds, and in areas of North America where the virus is active, crows have been nearly wiped out. It will be interesting to see whether crows and magpies, which also had low numbers this year, will continue to decline. Black-capped Chickadees are another bird that can be affected by the virus, but so far their numbers have held up.
You can download the complete tabulated report below:
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 448, RPO University
Saskatoon, SK S7N 4J8