The 119th CBC in Saskatchewan

There were 39 Saskatchewan CBCs submitted, a decrease of two from last year. Hopefully more counts will report next season!

The weather was generally cooperative throughout much of the count period with Clark’s Crossing, Floral, Gardiner Dam, and Swift current all reaching a balmy plus 4 C on their chosen date! Love-Torch River was the coldest area at - 25 C.

The average minimum and maximum temperatures were minus 10 to minus 5 C (-18 to -12 C in 2017-2018). Wind speed was about average at 8 to 19 k/h, while for the second consecutive year, snow amounts were generally slightly below average.

For the first time in several years, the highest count in the province was Regina with 41 species (plus one during count period). Last year’s winner, Gardiner Dam, was close behind with 40 species! Perennial champion Saskatoon recorded 39, plus two in count week.  

Qu’Appelle Valley Dam (32) and Estevan (30) were the next highest areas. The average result was down slightly from last year, but still a fairly impressive 22.5 species on count day, with 23.8 during count week.

Having said all that, this was a fairly “vanilla” CBC year.

There were only 85 species recorded: 81 on Count Day, plus four seen only during count week: Spruce Grouse, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Peregrine Falcon and Spotted Towhee.

This compares to last year’s count, which recorded 91 species.

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

The weather was slightly warmer than average in the weeks prior to the CBCs, yet there still were only 14 waterfowl species recorded, which was one less than last year.

Cackling Goose numbers were down, with just Estevan (41) and Gardiner Dam (17) finding them.

Estevan reported an impressive 12,575 Canada Geese, while Gardiner established a new count record with 10,843.

By far and away the most interesting waterbird was a male Wood Duck at Regina. It actually survived the entire winter, which featured a brutally cold February!

Other interesting dabblers included single Gadwall (Estevan), Northern Pintail (Grayson), and Green-winged Teal (Gardiner Dam).

Gardiner Dam established new Provincial record totals with 77 Lesser Scaup and 10 Ring-necked Ducks. There also were two Ring-neckeds at Saskatoon which was unusual. A good number of 20 Greater Scaup were also present at Gardiner.

The only Bufflehead sighting was four at Gardiner. The lone merganser species reported this season was Common, which were at Clark’s Crossing, Squaw Rapids, and Gardiner Dam.

Sharp-tailed and Ruffed grouse, along with Gray Partridge populations, remained relatively stable. Ring-necked Pheasants were recorded from six areas, including a respectable total of 91 at Estevan.

With the unfortunate demise of the Creighton count, it is unlikely that Willow Ptarmigan will be reported anytime soon. The only Spruce Grouse was a CW bird at Lac la Plonge.

Eurasian Collared-Doves were reported from 23 areas with an average of nearly 29 birds per count. Similar to last year’s results, Mourning Doves were found in four areas.

As usual, the only American Coots were a pair of birds at Boundary Dam near Estevan.

No gulls were reported from any of the hydro-electric dams this CBC season.

A Double-crested Cormorant, plus a pair of American White Pelicans, helped spice up the Gardiner count.

Regina observers found a lingering Great Blue Heron, only the fifth in Sask’s long CBC history!

Most raptors were scarce this winter.

Eight Northern Goshawks on six counts was about average. However, Sharp-shinned Hawks were down, with singles at Melfort and Prince Albert (plus CW birds at Fort Qu’Appelle and Saskatoon). This was down from last year’s eight birds on five counts.

There were seven Golden Eagles on six counts, while Bald Eagles were slightly up with 84 on 13 CBCs, plus two more during CW. As is usual, Gardiner led the way with 46 birds.

One Red-tailed Hawk was a surprise at Eastend, with a CW bird at Fort Qu’Appelle. In a repeat of last year, Rough-legged Hawks were found on only three counts.

Great Horned Owl numbers remained static, with a nice total of 17 birds at Morse! Snowy Owl numbers decreased dramatically. There were only 52 birds in 14 areas, compared with last year’s 105 birds in 21 circles.

Probably due to a lack of voles, the six Short-eared Owls at Regina was the only report. A Long-eared Owl on the Qu’Appelle Valley Dam (QVD) count was new to their list. The only Northern Saw-whet Owl was a CW bird at Morse. The “northern” owls – Great Gray, Barred, Boreal and Northern Hawk - were absent this year.

Woodpecker numbers remained average. Single American Three-toeds were seen at Love and surprisingly, Saskatoon. Black-backeds turned up on three CBCs, including one well out-of-range in Regina.

Merlin numbers were stable: 15 birds on eight counts. As often happens, a single Gyrfalcon was found at Gardiner Dam. A CW Peregrine was a pleasant surprise at Fort Qu’Appelle. Lone Prairie Falcons were at the QVD, as well as Regina.

Northern Shrike numbers were strong for the second consecutive year with 16 birds on 11 counts.

Corvid numbers remained stable, with magpies and ravens recorded from all 39 circles. American Crows were found at Craven (1), Gardiner Dam (2), Moose Jaw (1), and as usual, Saskatoon (4).

Black-capped Chickadee numbers decreased slightly with 3482 birds on 38 counts, while Boreals totalled 41 from five areas. Both Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper were noted on five CBCs.

Red-breasted Nuthatch numbers recovered nicely, almost doubling last year’s results with 641 in 32 circles. Of interest, White-breasted Nuthatch reports were almost identical to last year with 267 in 33 areas.

Three circles reported Townsend’s Solitaires: Qu’Appelle and QVD, with another during CW at Moose Jaw. For the second straight year, American Robin numbers were down significantly – they were only seen in three areas. Saskatoon had the only Varied Thrush.

Bohemian Waxwings continued their unfortunate decline for the third consecutive winter with only 2371 from 16 circles. In the meantime, Cedars turned up at Biggar, Craven, Regina, Saskatoon, and Turtleford.

While personally I feel there aren’t as many House Sparrows as there used to be – probably not a bad thing! – there still were 19,174 from 38 circles. The only area failing to find them was Lac la Plonge located in the boreal forest. This was a significant increase over last year’s 15,770 birds.

“Winter finch” numbers were generally lower compared with 2017.

Evening Grosbeak reports were practically the same as last year, with 363 birds from eight areas. In “typical” winter finch fashion, Pine Grosbeak numbers declined to 308 on 12 counts.

House Finch numbers remain stable and were noted at Melfort for the first time, which is a 100 km range expansion to the northeast. Purple Finches were down with only four areas reporting.

White-winged Crossbills increased slightly to 44 birds on six counts, while Reds were only seen at Squaw Rapids and Saskatoon.

As expected, Common Redpolls declined to 2545 from 34 areas, compared with last season’s 9121 birds. Hoary totals also were correspondingly lower with only in 20 in seven circles, plus one CW observation.

American Goldfinch numbers rebounded significantly, with 33 birds in seven areas, with another reporting during count week. Pine Siskin populations were up sharply with 336 on 13 counts, plus one CW report.

Snow Bunting numbers were also markedly down with 3553 on 32 counts. There were 9701 on 29 counts last year.

American Tree Sparrows were in the south at Qu’Appelle (6) and Eastend (7). Dark-eyed Juncos were up significantly from 2017, with 163 from 16 circles, plus one CW location.

The only White-crowned Sparrow was quite far north at Prince Albert! White-throated Sparrows were reported on five counts, which is about average. One was finally recorded at Gardiner Dam, making it the 110th species on that long-standing CBC! A Spotted Towhee was unusual at Saskatoon, but only as a CW addition.

Only two Icterid species made the list this season. Red-winged Blackbirds showed up in three areas which is about average. Common Grackles increased slightly with seven birds on four counts.

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