Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Fall Migration Bird Count
September, 2010

by Craig Salisbury

The 2010 fall bird count, held on Saturday, September 11, looked like it would be a repeat of the spring count, with a forecast of rain, high winds and cool temperatures. In the 5 days leading up to the count over 80 mm of rain fell in the Saskatoon area. Fortunately the weather cleared Friday evening, and while the weather on Saturday wasn’t ideal, participants welcomed mostly clear skies and moderate temperature and wind. Count teams in rural sectors reported that while some grid roads were impassable, overall conditions were not as bad as expected. However, limited access to some key areas likely affected count results.
Despite the wet conditions, 168 species were identified, just 4 short of the record 172 species found in 2008. The total number of birds counted, 42,785, was close to the long-term average of 45,832. Eighteen teams consisting of 47 participants were involved in the count, including a visiting birder from England.
Two species were new to the fall count, Eurasian Collared-Dove and Alder Flycatcher. Feeder watcher Don Johnston counted 5 doves, two adults, two young, and one second summer bird. Two adults were seen in the same area on the spring count.
With a few exceptions, numbers of geese and ducks were down from the long-term averages. As well, there were no sightings of Ross’ Geese, which has happened only once before, in 1996. Exceptions to the low numbers include a new record of 1,115 American Widgeons, exceeding the previous record of 396. Stan Shadick’s team accounted for 1,035 of the widgeons. A sighting of 184 Ring-necked Ducks by Guy Wapple’s team in the northeast section of the city may be the largest single flock of these ducks reported in the Saskatoon birding area. Numbers of Northern Shovelers and Redheads also exceeded the long-term averages.
Shorebird numbers were also down significantly, due in part to the poor condition of roads leading to shorebird habitat. One hundred and forty Long-billed Dowitchers reported in the Blackstrap Lake area were the exception. Gull numbers were above average. Ryan Dudragne’s team reported 226 California Gulls in the University area, four times the long-term average of 55 birds, and the highest number reported since the date of the fall count was moved from late August to September in 1995.
Fall is the best time to see migrating hawks, particularly in areas of eastern North America where thermals (warm, rising air) provide the lift hawks use to gain altitude. Hawk watchers have counted thousands of migrating hawks in one day in prime locations. Saskatchewan is not usually known for its hawk watching, so the sighting of 205 Broad-winged Hawks in a 20 minute period over Hanley by Michael Williams’ team was exceptional. The previous fall count record for this species was 3 individuals.
Nineteen species of wood warblers were reported, a very good representation of the 28 species of warblers that have been identified in the Saskatoon birding area in the fall. Only single birds were seen for four of the rarer species: Cape May, Black-throated Green, Bay-breasted and Connecticut Warblers. Three teams reported single sightings of the equally rare Chestnut-sided Warbler. Yellow-rumped Warblers were the most abundant species reported at 947 individuals, double the long-term average.
Blackbird numbers were down, with the exception of Common Grackles, whose 566 individuals barely eclipsed the previous record of 554 reported in 1998
You can download the complete tabulated report below:

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