Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Fall Migration Bird Count
September, 2012

by Craig Salisbury

Despite mild weather and good road conditions, the 2012 fall migration bird count produced the second lowest number of birds since the count was moved from late August to mid-September in 1995. Only 31,184 birds were reported, almost 15,000 birds lower than the long-term average. While the 150 species recorded exceeded the long-term average of 145, nineteen species were each represented by only a single bird.
One new species was added to the fall count. Ron Jensen and Nick Saunders reported a Purple Martin, bringing the total number of species seen since 1995 to 226. Several species seen infrequently on previous counts were also reported, including American Golden Plover, Sabine’s Gull, and Western Kingbird.
Almost all families of birds contributed to the low count total. Total geese and ducks numbers were less than 65% of average, due mostly to very low numbers of Greater White-fronted Geese (204), Snow Geese (716), Gadwalls (186), Canvasbacks (72) and Redheads (56). No Ross’s Geese were reported, which has happened only twice since 1995.
Shorebird numbers were down by 28% even though most sloughs still contained water. One exception was the sighting of 50 Short-billed Dowitchers by Stan Shadick’s team, well above the long-term average of 9 birds.
Magpie numbers were up considerably from the previous three years at 430, the highest total since 2006. The number of crows (771) was also up compared to the last three years, but still at a level less than half of the long-term average of 1681. Forty-three Common Ravens were well short of the record 88 set in 2010, but still above the long-term average of 29.
Although 14 species of warblers were identified, the total number of warblers was down to 58% of normal. The Yellow-rumped Warbler, the most commonly seen warbler at this time of the year, peaked at just 335 birds, less than half of the long-term mean of 684. Palm Warblers were the next most frequently seen warbler at 83 individuals.
Almost all species of sparrows were present at numbers below their long-term averages, resulting in a total reaching only 60% of normal.
The most significant decline was seen with blackbird species. Only 724 blackbirds were counted, just 20% of the long-term average. Large, mixed flocks of blackbirds simply were not found.
A few species of birds were present at record levels. A record 434 chickadees were reported, beating the previous record of 347 set in 2008. A record 241 Red-breasted Nuthatches almost doubled the record of 121 set in 1997. Both species appear to have found breeding conditions this spring and summer to be ideal. A new record of 54 Gray Catbirds surpassed the previous high of 47 set last year.
Finch numbers were above average, due to a record number of American Goldfinches (324) and the third highest number of House Finches (154). Only Pine Siskin numbers were down (by 50%). Although small flocks of Red Crossbills were seen in the city prior to and after the count, none were reported on count day.
The mild weather resulted in some interesting records for other winged creatures. Many teams reported “Mourning Cloaks everywhere” and the 237 actually counted smashed the previous high of 11 reported in 1997. Monarchs were also reported, making this the first time this species has been recorded on both the spring and fall counts. This truly was the “summer of the Monarch”. Several other non-native species were also present, including Orange Sulphurs, Red Admirals, Variegated Fritillaries and an Eastern Comma reported by Mike Gollop.
You can download the complete tabulated report here:

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