The 120th CBC in Saskatchewan

There were 44 Saskatchewan CBCs submitted, an increase of five from last year. Hopefully this is a continuing trend!

The weather was generally cooperative throughout much of the count period. However, the first weekend was cold, with Clark’s Crossing observers dealing with - 27 C! Things generally improved after that, with Balgonie reaching a balmy + 3 C on their chosen date!

Actually, the average minimum and maximum temperatures were similar to last year: -11 to -6 C (-10 to -5 C), with wind speeds 8 to 16 km/h (8 to 19 km/h). Snow depth was 5 to 12 cm (6 to 14 cm), just slightly below average. Fog was present on several counts, which may have hampered observers especially in the early morning.

For the third time in the last four years, Gardiner Dam won the crown for the most species with 45. Saskatoon was second with 40, plus four count week species.

Regina (36 plus 3 cw), Estevan (33 plus 4 cw), Qu’Appelle Valley Dam (31) and Prince Albert (30 plus 5 cw) were the only other counts breaking the magic 30 species mark.

The average result was down slightly from last year, but was still a fairly impressive 21.4 species on count day, with 23 found during count week.

Having said all that, this was still a fairly decent CBC year in Saskatchewan.

There were 90 species recorded: 87 on Count Day, plus three seen only during count week: Wood Duck, Short-eared Owl, and Western Meadowlark.

This was a small increase over 2018’s effort, which tallied 85 species.

A Pacific Loon at Gardiner Dam was a new species for the CBC bringing the province’s all-time list up to 192 species. Other rarities of note included the seventh Double-crested Cormorant at Gardiner Dam and the 10th record of Northern Cardinal at Prince Albert.

Waterfowl were generally found in normal numbers, with the exception of two new provincial high counts established for Canada Goose and Common Goldeneye.

There were 15 waterfowl species recorded, which was one more than last year.

Cackling Geese were present at Estevan (43), Gardiner Dam (6), and Regina (1).

Estevan established a new CBC record with an amazing total of 33,775 Canada Geese!!! This was approximately 20,000 more individuals than last year’s impressive-at-the-time result! Watching that morning flight off Boundary Reservoir towards the surrounding fields with my brother-in-law Craig, will remain as one of my most memorable birding memories! Two Canadas at E.B. Campbell dam, northeast of Nipawin were also notable.

For the third consecutive year a male Wood Duck successfully overwintered at Regina, but frustratingly, couldn’t be located on count day!

Single Northern Pintails were at Grayson and Regina (CW). Gardiner Dam had a record four Canvasbacks, as well as the only Lesser Scaup (16), Greater Scaup (20), and Red-breasted Merganser (1) reported. Bufflehead sightings were four each at Gardiner and Estevan. E.B. Campbell set a provincial record with 1076 Common Goldeneye! Hooded Mergansers were present at Estevan (4) and Gardiner (1), while Common Mergs were seen at Gardiner (71), Saskatoon (1) and E.B. Campbell (3). The only Ruddy Duck was in its traditional area on Boundary Reservoir at Estevan.

Sharp-tailed and Ruffed grouse, along with Gray Partridge populations, remained relatively stable. Ring-necked Pheasants were recorded from only three areas, including a decent total of 125 at Estevan.

The only Spruce Grouse was a single at E.B. Campbell Dam.

With 7105 birds reported from 38 areas, Rock Doves continue to thrive on the prairies. On the other hand, Eurasian Collared-Dove numbers appear to have peaked. Indeed, there was a population decline compared to last year, with 410 individuals reported from 23 areas. After four sightings last year, Mourning Doves went unreported.

As usual, the only American Coots were 11 birds at Boundary Dam, near Estevan.

After being absent last year, two Glaucous Gulls maintained their long-standing tradition of hanging out at Gardiner Dam.

As mentioned earlier, a Double-crested Cormorant at Gardiner was only the 7th in Sask’s long CBC history!

Most raptors were generally at or below normal numbers this winter

The exception was Northern Goshawk which staged a minor invasion of southern Saskie. They were recorded on 15 counts (with an additional four during cw), doubling last year’s total.

Sharp-shinned Hawks rebounded to six from six localities, compared to only two in 2018. A single Cooper’s was well described at Estevan.  

The only Northern Harrier noted was a pleasant surprise at Craven.

There were seven Golden Eagles on four counts, while Bald Eagles declined to 56 birds on 11 CBCs, plus two count week observations. As usual, Gardiner led the way with 22 birds, which is markedly lower than recent years.

The presence of duck hunters just south of the dam - another count first! - might have had an impact on the eagles hanging around. As it turned out, it was the last day of the season!  

In a repeat of last year, Rough-legged Hawks were found on only three counts.

Great Horned Owl numbers remained static, with 15 at Morse leading the way! Snowy Owl numbers increased slightly to 65 birds in 16 areas. After being completely absent last year, a couple of the “northern” owls made their appearance. There were single Northern Hawk Owls at Candle Lake and E.B. Campbell, as well as a lone Great Gray at Shell Lake. Single Northern Saw-whets appeared at Morse and Pike Lake, plus a count week bird at Saskatoon. The only Short-eared Owl report was a count week bird at Estevan.

Both Downy and Hairy woodpecker numbers declined slightly. American Three-toeds were seen in four areas – two of them during count week, while Black-backeds turned up on four CBCs, plus two during count week. For the second consecutive year, one was discovered far to the south of its normal range in Regina. Flicker numbers were only half of last year’s total: 24 birds on 13 counts, plus two more cw occurrences. Two were “Red-shafted”, while one “Intergrade” was reported. Pileated numbers were similar to 2018, with 18 birds on ten counts, plus two more in count week.

Merlins declined to only eight birds on five counts (plus two cw sightings). Always a treat, there were four Gyrfalcons on four CBCs, as well as three cw reports. Single Prairie Falcons showed up at Eastend, Gardiner Dam, and Regina.

Northern Shrike numbers were strong for the third consecutive year with 13 birds on 11 counts, plus two more during count week.

Corvid numbers remained stable. Magpies were reported from all 45 areas, with Ravens right behind, being found in 43. American Crows were noted at Moose Jaw (1), Pike Lake (2) and, as usual, Saskatoon (4).

Black-capped Chickadee numbers decreased slightly with 3116 birds on 43 counts. However, Boreal Chickadee numbers almost tripled from 2018 levels with 109 birds from nine areas.

Horned Lark numbers were average with 1080 in 24 circles.

Golden-crowned Kinglet numbers were nearly identical to 2018: there were 20 seen in ten areas (plus one cw). Red-breasted Nuthatch numbers returned to more ‘normal’ levels, with 479 reported 30 circles. White-breasted Nuthatch reports dropped slightly with 220 in 32 areas (plus one during cw). Brown Creeper numbers jumped considerably with 27 birds noted on ten CBCs (plus one cw).

With 676 birds in 20 circles (plus one cw), European Starling numbers were far fewer when compared to last year.

Three circles reported Townsend’s Solitaires: Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and Swift Current, with a cw bird at Qu’Appelle. For the third consecutive year, American Robin numbers were down significantly. While seen in nine circles (plus three in cw), there were only 21 individuals counted. Fort Qu’Appelle had the only Varied Thrush.

Bohemian Waxwing numbers bounced back slightly compared to the past two years with 4314 from 28 areas, with two more cw reports. In the meantime, Cedars turned up on just two counts: Fort Qu’Appelle and Saltcoats. The latter district reported an amazing 218 birds! They also were a cw species at Turtleford, which is fairly far north for the “summer” waxer!

While personally I feel there aren’t as many House Sparrows as there used to be - probably not a bad thing! - there still were 20,177 reported from 40 circles. This was an increase of just over one thousand individuals.

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

Having said that, Evening Grosbeak reports were a most pleasant surprise with nearly double the total from 2018: 634 birds seen in 11 areas (plus one cw). Meanwhile, Pine Grosbeak numbers barely declined to 296 on 17 counts (plus two more cw observations).

House Finch numbers remain stable. As with last year, Purple Finches were only noted in four areas, with two more during cw.

Common Redpolls declined to 484 from 21 areas, compared with last season’s 2545 birds. The only Hoaries reported were a pair at E.B. Campbell Dam.

In a reversal of ‘normal’ occurrence, White-winged Crossbills were only seen in three circles, while Reds were recorded from ten (plus one cw).

American Goldfinch numbers were up slightly, with 43 birds in seven areas. A flock of 12 birds at Gardiner Dam was the 112th species for that very productive circle!!!

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. By comparison, there were 9701 from 29 areas last year.

Single American Tree Sparrows were found at Craven and Eastend. Fox Sparrows made a strong showing with single birds at Grayson, Qu’Appelle Valley Dam, and Love. The bird in Love also managed to overwinter successfully!

Dark-eyed Juncos were down slightly with 126 from 27 circles. Three ‘Oregon’ individuals were noted among them.

White-throated Sparrows were reported on three counts, as well as two during cw, which is about average.

A Western Meadowlark at Estevan was a new species for their list, albeit a count week observation. Red-winged Blackbirds showed up in three areas at Morse, Regina, and Saltcoats, which is about average. A lone Brewer’s Blackbird at the Qu’Appelle Valley Dam was most unusual. Common Grackles were fewer, with just single birds at Balgonie and Swift Current.

The often-elusive Northern Cardinal in Prince Albert decided to show up on count day for once! It was the tenth Saskatchewan CBC record.


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