Generally mild fall weather resulted in many larger water bodies, streams, and rivers remaining open into the early count period, which was conducive to the detection of waterfowl and waterbirds. Areas with less than average snow cover may have contributed to lower than usual numbers of birds at feeders. Counts conducted later in the period reported extremely cold temperatures, higher snowfall, and very little open water.
Noteworthy records in the waterfowl department included both Trumpeter and Tundra swans, one Wood Duck, five Gadwall, and one Northern Shoveler. Diving ducks included one Canvasback at Wabumun Lake, one Greater Scaup at Medicine Hat, one Harlequin Duck at Calgary, and two Red-breasted Mergansers at Cold Lake.
Sharp-tailed Grouse numbers generally were low and only one Willow Ptarmigan was counted this season. However, Wild Turkey numbers in southwestern Alberta continue to increase with a total of 120 counted.
One Common Loon at Cold Lake was a good find, as was a Double-crested Cormorant in Calgary. Four grebe species were noted during the count period: Pied-billed (cw), Horned, Red-necked, and Western. Almost all (20) of the 21 American Coots in the province were at Medicine Hat.
One Greater Yellowlegs at Brule was the most notable shorebird species counted and high counts of four and three Killdeer were at Banff-Canmore and Calgary respectively. Two Herring Gulls were at Cold Lake, as was one count week Ring-billed Gull.
One of only a handful of Mourning Doves was a new species for Edmonton. Eurasian Collared-Dove numbers continue to rise with 833 reported in the province. There were five Belted Kingfishers reported in the province compared to only one last season.
A total of 19 Snowy Owls from 11 CBC circles were reported in Alberta, where the eruption noted further east was not experienced. All other owl species were detected in low to average numbers.
Likely the rarest bird in the province, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, was a new species for the Strathcona count. Strathcona also had a high of two Black-backed Woodpeckers, and three Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers making it the winter woodpecker diversity capital of Alberta.
Peregrine Falcon, an uncommon winter species, was reported at Dinosaur Provincial Park and Edmonton. It was a good year for Gyrfalcons with eight reported compared to three last season. A single American Kestrel was at Medicine Hat.
Crowsnest Pass secured its position as the American Dipper capital of Alberta, reporting 37 individuals. Banff-Canmore reported a respectable 26 dippers followed by seven at Jasper.
One Varied Thrush at Fort MacMurray was out of range while the only others were singles at Banff-Canmore and Strathcona. Banff-Canmore also contributed the highest count of Townsend’s Solitaire with 23 out of the 37 reported in the province. Lapland Longspurs were only reported in two circles, five of which were at Milk River. The highest tallies of Snow Buntings came from Snake’s Head (756), followed by Greenshields with 608, and Cochrane Wildlife Reserve with 400.
Only one Harris’s Sparrow was reported this season, a bird at Milk River, compared to four birds last year. Northern Cardinals were reported from Athabasca with a single bird and two individuals at Strachcona, where they had been absent in recent years. Wintering White-throated Sparrow numbers were highest in the central part of Alberta with high counts of eight birds at Strathcona and five at Edmonton.
A total of 36 Rusty Blackbirds were counted during the period, 23 of which were in Medicine Hat. A high count of 21 Red-winged Blackbirds was also reported from Medicine Hat while the only report of Brewer’s Blackbird was a single bird at Lethbridge. Winter Common Grackle records continue to increase with three birds at Fort McMurray, two at High River, and two at Hinton.
Conifer cones were not abundant in the foothills this season and some finches, particularly Red Crossbill were reported in low numbers. High River reported the highest number of Common Redpolls (1180) while an impressive total of 130 Hoary Redpolls were reported in 22 circles! American Goldfinches were scarce with single individual count day observations at Calgary and Lethbridge.