The 115th Christmas Bird Count saw the best coverage ever for Northern Canada with 14 counts in the Yukon, six in Northwest Territories, and four in Nunavut. New counts this year were Marge of Lake Laberge and Tombstone in the Yukon, Nahanni Butte in NWT, and Kugluktuk in Nunavut. The coldest temperature recorded was -32°C at Arctic Bay, Nunavut, while the warmest was -4°C at Marsh Lake, Yukon. Thanks to the Yukon Bird Club and Ecology North for supporting and sponsoring the Christmas Bird Counts, and to the dedicated count coordinators.
This year produced a record-high species total of 50 for all Northern Canada counts combined (Yukon 43, Northwest Territories 21, Nunavut 6); with the highest count total being a new record of 33 species recorded by Whitehorse. Also noteworthy were Haines Junction and Tagish with 21 and 20 species respectively. Northwest Territories’ highest species count was Fort Simpson with 20; while in Nunavut, Arviat recorded four species, Rankin Inlet recorded two species, and Arctic Bay (Canada’s northernmost count) and Kugluktuk each recorded one species (Common Raven).
Waterfowl were well represented this year in the Yukon – a single Trumpeter Swan was recorded on the new Marge of Laberge count, while a record high count of 46 Trumpeters was tallied at Johnson’s Crossing. Tagish turned up the highest numbers of Common Goldeneye (38) and Common Mergansers (27), while Whitehorse produced a record-high count of 75 Mallards, as well as a single Barrow’s Goldeneye, rare but not-quite annual in winter. A count of four Mallards at Dawson City, Yukon was noteworthy, as was a single Common Eider, the only one for Northern Canada, at Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
Ruffed and Spruce grouse were found in normal numbers, with notable tallies of Ruffed Grouse being 20 at Haines Junction, 10 at Mayo, and nine at Teslin; while lower numbers of Spruce Grouse were recorded with the highest counts being five at Watson Lake, and four at Teslin. The Region’s only Sharp-tailed Grouse reported were eight at Norman Wells. Willow Ptarmigan were found on five Yukon counts with the highest numbers being 40 at Tagish, 18 at Johnson’s Crossing, and seven at Teslin. In NWT, Willow Ptarmigan were recorded on three counts with 86 at Yellowknife and 16 at Norman Wells. Carcross, Yukon reported the only White-tailed Ptarmigan (5), while Rankin Inlet, Nunavut found the only Rock Ptarmigan (4). An open sliver of water on the Yukon River seemed to just enough habitat for a winter-plumage adult Common Loon, which established a first count record for Whitehorse.
Bald Eagle was recorded on five Yukon counts including a record-smashing 39 at Whitehorse. A single Golden Eagle, rare in winter, recorded at Whitehorse was the only one for the Region. Likewise, a single Sharp-shinned Hawk, casual in winter, on the Teslin count was noteworthy. The Whitehorse Rock Pigeon population continued its steady decline, as tracked by the CBC over the decades, and all six birds were accounted for on count day. Owls are a highlight of any Christmas Bird Count, and standouts this year were single Great Gray Owls at Haines Junction and Kluane National Park; single Northern Hawk Owls at Haines Junction, Tagish, Teslin, and Takhini-Laberge; and the Region’s only Snowy Owl at Arviat, Nunavut. The only Pileated Woodpecker, very rare in winter, was a single at Ft. Simpson, NWT.
Common Raven is the winter bird of Northern Canada – but it’s not a competition for highest count, well not much. This year it was Whitehorse taking top spot with 2209 ravens, edging out Yellowknife with 1746. Meanwhile in Nunavut, Arctic Bay recorded 219 ravens followed by 111 at Rankin Inlet, 32 at Arviat, and 22 at Kugluktuk. Black-billed Magpie seemed to fare well this winter with 158 in Whitehorse, 57 at Yellowknife, and 47 at Hay River. Watson Lake recorded the Region’s only American Crows, two that lingered since fall; and Steller’s Jay, an interior-race individual that also lingered since fall.
The thousands of Bohemian Waxwings present in Whitehorse through early winter seemed to all but vanish just days before 26 December, leaving a modest 216 recorded on count day. In NWT, the highest count for Bohemian Waxwing was 126 at Hay River. Snow Bunting is rare but regular in the Region in winter; this year there were two at Teslin, Yukon, four at Ft. Simpson, NWT, and one at Arviat, Nunavut. A record-high count of 54 Dark-eyed Juncos was recorded at Haines Junction, and a count of 22 at Teslin was also noteworthy. Rare winter sparrows included single White-crowned Sparrows at Whitehorse and Haines Junction, single Dark-eyed Juncos at Dawson and Norman Wells, a Lincoln’s Sparrow at Tagish, a Fox Sparrow at Whitehorse, and a count-week Harris’s Sparrow at Ft. Smith, NWT. Whitehorse also had three Rusty Blackbirds—two at a feeder and one along a stream.
A Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, casual in winter, was at Hay River, NWT. The new Nahanni Butte count in NWT tapped into the mother-lode of Hoary Redpolls with a count of 367, accompanied by just 15 Common Redpolls. In the Yukon, Common Redpolls dominated while the tally at Yellowknife, NWT included 181 Common, 134 Hoary, and 286 unidentified redpolls. A count of eight Pine Siskins, casual in winter, was recorded at Carcross, Yukon. Evening Grosbeak was reported on just two counts with 25 at Ft. Smith and two at Ft. Simpson, NWT. A productive breeding season for House Sparrows in Whitehorse was represented by a record-high count of 70; while NWT counts recorded 69 at Yellowknife, 53 at Ft. Simpson, and 14 at Hay River.