The 118th CBC in Saskatchewan

In an encouraging turnaround, there were 41 Saskatchewan CBCs submitted, an increase of 18 over last year. Hopefully even more counts will report next season!!!

While counting conditions were brutal in many areas, the weather was generally cooperative throughout much of the count period. Fort Qu’Appelle reached a balmy +2 C on their count!

The average minimum and maximum temperatures were -18.3 to -12.5 C (-18 to -11 C in 2016-2017). Wind speed was about average, while for the second consecutive year, snow amounts were generally well below average across most of the province.

Temperatures ranged from a VERY chilly -37 C at Saskatoon (it later “warmed up” to -25!!!), to a positively balmy +2 at Fort Qu’Appelle!

For the second year in a row, the highest count in the province was from Gardiner Dam, where observers recorded an impressive 43 species, only one less than their all-time count record of 44 established last year!

Perennial champion Saskatoon was close behind with 42, although they did add two count week species.

Other excellent counts were turned in by Estevan 38 (plus 3 cw), Clark’s Crossing 38, Prince Albert 28 (plus 11 cw) and Regina with 33 (plus 4 cw). The average result was down slightly from last year, but still a fairly impressive 23.4 species per count day and 25.5 per count week.

There were 91 species recorded: 88 on Count Day, plus three seen only during count week: Snow Goose, Chipping Sparrow, and Western Meadowlark.

Of course, it’s perhaps unfair to compare numbers when there were 16 fewer counts done in 2016-17, but that species total was 85.

No new species were added to the Saskatchewan all-time CBC list, but as usual, there were several rarities discovered.

In spite of fairly mild weather leading up to count period and virtually no snow, only 15 waterfowl species were recorded, barely ahead of last year’s 13 varieties.

A flock of 21 Snow Geese seen two days after the Estevan count was the only occurrence. Cackling Goose numbers were down, being found in only three areas and in comparatively low numbers.

Dabbling duck variety increased marginally. Last year only Mallard and Green-winged Teal were reported. This year there were Mallard, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintail observed. The latter three were only found at Gardiner Dam.

Gardiner also established another Provincial record total with 38 Greater Scaup, while a single male at Estevan was new for that count list. Gardiner also established new count highs with 11 Bufflehead. Estevan had the only two Hooded Mergansers. The Qu’Appelle Valley Dam (QVD) and Estevan each reported single Ruddy Ducks.

Sharp-tailed and Ruffed grouse, along with Gray Partridge populations, remained relatively stable. Ring-necked Pheasants were only reported from five areas. While harder to find with less snow cover, Estevan still managed to tally an impressive 133 birds!!!

As usual, Creighton had the distinction as the only count with Willow Ptarmigan, finding 16 birds, as well as a lone Spruce Grouse. There were also three of the latter on the Love-Torch River count for the only sightings.  

Northern Harriers were seen on four CBCs and were a new species at the Qu’Appelle Valley Dam (QVD). Eight Sharp-shinned Hawks on five CBC’s were down slightly from last year’s 11 birds on eight counts. Bald Eagles were up. There were 100 birds from 11 areas, with Gardiner establishing a new count high with 65! One Red-tailed Hawk was a surprise at Coronach. In spite of little snow cover, the corresponding lack of voles meant that Rough-legged Hawks were found on only three counts, down from last year’s seven.

The only American Coots were a pair of birds at Boundary Dam near Estevan. Always a pleasant surprise, a single Wilson’s Snipe was flushed from a marshy channel on the QVD CBC. After none in the Province last season, two Herring and a single Glaucous gull were nice to see at Gardiner.

Dove numbers were up. Eurasian Collared-Doves were reported from 23 areas with an average of nearly 29 birds per count. After just a single count week bird last year, Mourning Doves were found in five areas. Three birds at Biggar were the first in that count’s long 47-year history!

Great Horned Owl numbers remained static, but a most impressive 25 birds were found at Morse! Snowy Owl numbers increased dramatically from last year’s 17 birds in 11 circles. This year 105 were seen in 21 areas, including an amazing 45 at Regina!!! A single Great Gray was noted at Kinloch, plus a cw bird at Prince Albert. Again, due to a lack of voles, there were only three Short-eared Owls on two counts. A single Northern Saw-whet Owl was discovered near the end of the day on the QVD count for the only record.

Woodpecker numbers remained average. After only one last year, there were five American three-toeds in four areas and five Black-backed on two CBC’s.

Merlin numbers were up slightly: 15 birds on nine counts. A single Gyrfalcon was a major highlight at Clark’s Crossing, while single Prairie Falcons came from Broadview and Gardiner.

Northern Shrikes increased significantly with 14 birds on 10 counts.

Corvid numbers remained stable, with magpies ahead of ravens. The only American Crows were three in Saskatoon and one in Regina.

Black-capped Chickadee numbers increased substantially with 3736 birds on 37 counts. However, Red-breasted Nuthatches declined by half, with only 313 in 27 circles. On the other hand White-breasted numbers jumped with 262 in 30 areas.

The only Townsend’s Solitaires were a pair reported from Swift Current. The latter also hosted a Hermit Thrush which remarkably survived the entire winter, in spite of several bitter cold spells!!! For the second straight year, American Robin numbers were down significantly – they were only seen in three areas. Varied Thrushes staged somewhat of an invasion and were observed in five places.

Brown Creeper numbers were up, while Golden-crowned Kinglets decidedly down this year.

Bohemian Waxwings wandered to 18 circles, including 4424 in Prince Albert! Biggar had the only count day Cedars, a record 88 birds! They were also a cw species at Turtleford.

As usual, Lapland Longspurs turned up on “southern” counts at Qu’Appelle (10) and Ponteix (3). Snow Bunting numbers were solid and up slightly from last year with 9701 birds seen on 29 CBCs (plus one cw).

There were 19 American Tree Sparrows reported from Eastend, with a single bird at Craven. The only Chipping Sparrow was a count week bird reported from Prince Albert. Harris’s Sparrows increased with five birds from three counts. There were 14 White-throated Sparrows on five counts, up substantially over last year.   

Eight Red-winged Blackbirds showed up in four areas which was also an increase from last season. Common Grackles declined slightly with five on four counts. The only Western Meadowlark was a surprise cw bird far north at Kinloch! Three Rusty Blackbirds were noted at Pike Lake, while a single Brewer’s was seen at Whitewood.

As expected, with the exception of both crossbills, “winter finch” numbers increased significantly compared with 2016.

House Finch numbers remain stable. Purple Finches were definitely up with 60 birds from eight counts (plus another cw area). White-winged Crossbills totalled only 26 birds on five counts, with only 11 Reds seen at Melfort. Common Redpolls jumped to 9121 birds in 39 areas, compared to last year’s 765 on only 18 CBCs. Hoary’s totalled 46 from 14 circles. Having said that, American Goldfinch numbers were down significantly, with only four birds: two each at Clark’s Crossing and Moose Jaw. They also were reported from four other areas during count week. Evening Grosbeaks made a bit of a comeback from last season, with 387 birds from 10 areas.

While personally I feel there aren’t as many House Sparrows as there used to be – probably not a bad thing! – there still were 15,770 birds reported from 40 out of the 41 counts. The only area missing them from their list was Dorintosh, situated on the forest fringe.

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