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Christmas Bird Count

Black-capped Chickadee Photo: Julie Clement

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Birds Canada and National Audubon Society are grateful for our volunteer Regional Editors, who generously volunteer their time to review CBC data and write regional summaries. 

Alberta

By Yousif Attia

A total of 57 Christmas Bird Counts submitted data during the 122nd (2021-2022) season in Alberta. A total of 275,514 individual birds of 111 species were tallied by 1155 field counters and 867 feeder counters. Calgary was the top count with 73 species on count day, up from 69 species the year previous.

A total of ten species were only detected during Count Week (three days prior to and three days after a Count Day), including: Greater White-fronted Goose (Calgary), Horned Grebe (Waterton Lakes N.P.), Double-crested Cormorant (High River), Killdeer (Calgary), Eastern Screech-Owl (Medicine Hat), Northern Pygmy-Owl (Sheep River), Long-eared Owl (Lethbridge), Harris’s Sparrow (Rocky Mountain House), Red-winged Blackbird (Banff-Canmore), and Western Meadowlark (High River). The top 10 most abundant species in Alberta, in order of most to least abundant were: Canada Goose, Bohemian Waxwing, House Sparrow, Mallard, Common Redpoll, Snow Bunting, Black-capped Chickadee, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, and Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon).

Dinosaur P.P. recorded the coldest low temperature on count day with -42 degrees Celsius, while Sheep River was the warmest at 1 degree Celsius. Elk Island N.P had the highest snow with a minimum of 300 cm, and the highest maximum wind speed came from Waterton Lakes N.P. (76km/hr).

Species and notes

Canada Goose (81,702) was the most abundant waterfowl species reported, down from the previous year, followed by Mallard (23,720), Common Goldeneye (1919), Bufflehead (154), and Common Merganser (111), all of which, with the exception of Common Goldeneye (1919) are increases from the previous count year. Lethbridge reported the highest count of Canada Goose (39,366) in Alberta, and Cackling Goose was reported for Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat; showing an increasing trend. Seven Trumpeter Swans were reported, with five in Calgary, and two in High River, and the only Tundra Swan, was also in the Calgary count circle. Small numbers of most expected duck species took refuge along the Bow River in Calgary including, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Ruddy Duck. Sharp-tailed Grouse were recorded in lower abundance than last year, with the highest numbers reported for Milk River (51), Dinosaur Provincial Park (28) and Manyberries (17). Four counts recorded Spruce Grouse, with six in Jarvie, five in Hinton, and singles from Athabasca and Banff-Canmore. The only Horned Grebe reported were during Count Week from Waterton Lakes N.P., while Double-crested Cormorant was reported at High River. No Common Loons were reported this year, but one American White Pelican was again recorded for High River.

American Coot was reported on only two counts: Medicine Hat (7) and Calgary (1). The only shorebirds in Alberta were a Count Week Killdeer and a Wilson’s Snipe, both in Calgary. Both of these shorebirds were recorded in higher numbers at multiple counts last season, likely due to colder conditions this year. Gulls were virtually absent on CBCs during the 122nd, again likely due to the early cold weather and lack of open water. Eurasian Collared-Doves were reported on 24 Circles but the vast majority coming form Lethbridge (241) and Medicine Hat (178). Mourning Doves were scarce with only six reported among three circles.

As often the case, Bald Eagle was far and away the most abundant raptor (336), a substantial increase over last year (245). Detections of Rough-legged Hawks (60) however, were half that of last year (119), but a decline in records for Northern Goshawk (23). Merlin (63) was the most abundant falcon, followed by Prairie Falcon (18), and Gyrfalcon (6), with Canadian high-counts for Prairie Falcon in Medicine Hat (4), and Gyrfalcon in Devon-Calmar (2). The third most abundant raptor was Merlin, where Alberta is known to be a winter stronghold for the species. Twenty-four Merlins in Calgary was the highest count in a North American CBC. Owl numbers and diversity was sharply down with only five Northern Hawk-Owls, four Great Gray Owls, four Short-eared Owls, one Boreal Owl and perhaps most surprisingly, only Count Week Northern Pygmy-Owl. Snowy Owls were present in unremarkable numbers.

Twenty-one American Three-toed Woodpecker at Grand Prairie and Downy (438) in Edmonton were high counts in Canada, with the former also being a high for North America. At least six Belted Kingfishers were counted, down from last year’s nine. A total of 59 Northern Shrikes were tallied on Count Days in Alberta.

Clark’s Nutcracker (106) at Banff-Canmore was the North American High Count for another consecutive season. Calgary regained the high-count title for Black-billed Magpies (2529) on the continent. Common Ravens in Whitehorse set a new all time record high count (3300). Common Raven remains the species detected most detected on CBCs in Canada. Edmonton was the Black-capped Chickadee of not only Canada, but all of North America. Counts in Alberta again recorded North American records of both Bohemian Waxwing (15,676), and House Sparrow (7394) in Calgary. There was a healthy count of Snow Buntings in the province (14,794), followed by Horned Larks (1955), and Lapland Longspurs (3).

After the massive finch irruption during the 121st CBC in the east, Common Redpolls (21,850) were in abundance in the west during the 122nd. Pine Grosbeaks (2958) and Evening Grosbeaks (603) were present albeit not in record-breaking numbers. Pine Siskin can be one of the most abundant finches most years, but their numbers were down this year. Not surprisingly, Dark-eyed Juncos (605) led the way in the sparrow department, followed by American Tree Sparrow (72), and White-throated Sparrow (20). One Fox Sparrow in Calgary was a good showing and the only Harris’s Sparrow was a Count Week bird at Rocky Mountain House. Blackbirds were few and far between with only five Common Grackles found on Count Day: three at Fort McMurray and singles at Elnora and Jarvie.

Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island)

By Jared Clarke

The 122nd Christmas Bird Count season was a great one with its usual mix of wintry weather, fantastic birds and great camaraderie.  It was also a welcome symbol of returning to “normal” for many birders – an opportunity to come together outside, celebrate nature and reconnect with our communities after a challenging two years. A typical fall with plenty of winds from the west led to an array of vagrants and displaced migrants hanging on into winter, while the sudden onset of cold and snow in early December concentrated birds within some areas. All in all, there was plenty to see and talk about.

A total of 94 counts were completed in the Atlantic region this season; with 49 in New Brunswick, 34 in Nova Scotia, 9 in Newfoundland & Labrador and 3 in Prince Edward Island. This represents the highest number of counts recorded in the region – due in part to the fact that, for the first time, all the results were submitted to the Audubon database. Involvement was also up with ~2306 total participants, 1522 of which put in over 4000 hours in the field. The bird tally was down slightly from last season with 188 species recorded throughout the region (including a few count week observations) – but there were still many highlights, including a number of rare and lingering species.

A long-staying Pink-footed Goose was once again recorded in St. John’s (NL), placing this rare species on the list for the fifth season in a row. A lone Snow Goose was spotted in Yarmouth (NS) – the only other species of goose in the region besides the widespread Canada Goose. A record five Wood Ducks tallied in St. John’s (NL) reflects a seeming influx of this species in the province, while the 54 Tufted Duck tallied there was on par with last season. Although there were no other Tufted Ducks reported in the region this year, apparent hybrid Tufted Duck X Scaup at Cape Sable Island (NS) was an interesting record. A locally rare Ruddy Duck was at Chezzetook (NS), while another made a count week appearance at Shediac (NB). Just two Pied-billed Grebes were reported – one at Lunenburg (NS) and another at Renews (NL). Both the Pacific Loon and Common Gallinule seen on the Halifax-Dartmouth (NS) count were regionally rare.

Shorebird diversity was up compared to last season with a total of nine species recorded, mostly in NS.  The most notable reports were of a lingering Semipalmated Plover at Cape Sable Island and Lesser Yellowlegs in Broad Cove (NS). Surprisingly, only one Wilson’s Snipe was reported in the region, although three American Woodcocks were a little more notable. Purple Sandpipers were slightly below average with a total of 388 (278 of which were recorded in NL). Black-bellied Plover (14), Ruddy Turnstone (1), Sanderling (424) and Dunlin (15) rounded out the tally.

Willow Ptarmigan were recorded in three different circles in NL, including an impressive 20 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. A lone Rock Ptarmigan was spotted during the Bonne Bay (NL) count, no doubt atop the Long Range Mountains in that area. A total of 190 Wild Turkeys were recorded on seven counts in NB – the bulk from St. Stephens (79), St. Andrews (21), Hartland (50) and Mactaquac (12) which are all near the border with Maine. These birds represent the only established population in the region, but do appear to be spreading ever so slightly. Unfortunately, the increasingly hard-to-find Gray Partridge on PEI did not make an appearance during counts this season.

Diurnal raptors are always a highlight, and this year was no exception. Turkey Vultures continue to increase in the Maritimes, with a remarkable 211 recorded across NS and 59 in neighbouring NB. Bald Eagles also continue to rebound in Atlantic Canada, with 1898 individuals reported across all four provinces. A regionally rare Red-shouldered Hawk was a highlight at Annapolis Royal (NS). A total of three Broad-winged Hawks were reported in Nova Scotia this season – down slightly from last year, but still notable at this time of year. A grand total of 24 Peregrine Falcons, 26 Merlin and eight American Kestrels was also a good showing for the region.

Snowy Owl reports were up after several slow seasons, with a total of 30 recorded across NS, NB and NL. Barred Owls appear to be increasing across the Maritimes with an impressive 42 reports. Surely, NL can expect its first record soon! Northern Saw-whet Owls were pretty much on par with 13 individuals, while the number of Great Horned (7) and Short-eared Owls (6) were both down significantly from last winter. Two Long-eared Owls in NS round out the list of six species found this season.

Woodpeckers put it in a good showing this year including 30 Red-bellied Woodpeckers in NS & NB where they are regionally scarce, five Black-backed and a lone American Three-toed Woodpecker which often goes undetected during the count period. Carolina Wrens, which have been increasing in the Maritimes in recent years, were down slightly from last year – with just one each in NS & NB. A total of eight Winter Wrens, one House Wren and one Marsh Wren were also reported.

Rare and lingering warblers are often a “prize” of the season in Atlantic Canada. A total of ten species were recorded this year, down slightly from last. Yellow-rumped Warblers were surprisingly abundant in NS with a total of 141 reported, including a remarkable 81 at Cape Sable Island and 18 in Halifax-Dartmouth. Other more-or-less expected species included Pine Warbler (38) Orange-crowned Warbler (22), Common Yellowthroat (3) and Yellow-breasted Chat (3). Other warblers throughout the region included Palm (3), Cape May (2), Northern Parula (1) and Ovenbird (1). A Yellow-throated Warbler was recorded in Jemseg-Gagetown (NB), and others during count week at Moncton (NB) and West Hants (NS).

Other lingering birds of note in the region included five Great Blue Herons (NB & PEI), one Great Egret (NS), 23 American Coots (NB,NS & NL), three Eastern Phoebe (NB & NS), four Gray Catbirds (NB & NS), 25 Northern Mockingbirds (NB & NS), 18 Eastern Bluebirds (NB & NS), 20 Hermit Thrush (NB & NS), 75 Brown-headed Cowbirds (NS & PEI), 14 Baltimore Orioles (NB, NS & NL) and five Rusty Blackbirds (NB & NS). A total of 1151 Northern Cardinals were recorded across this region this season.

Notable birds in the region at any season included a Sabine’s Gull on Sable Island (NS) and a Little Gull at Pictou Harbour (NS). The most exceptional records were vagrants from western Canada including a Townsend’s Solitaire at Restigouche (NB), Western Tanager at Moncton (NB) and a Mountain Bluebird during count week at Glace Bay (NS). Tufted Titmouse was reported in three different count circles in NB, perhaps signalling a slight range expansion of this species that just barely makes it into Canada. Two Brown Thrashers were found during count week at Grand Manan (NB) and Broad Cove (NS).  A Scarlet Tanager was at Wolfville, while a slightly rarer Summer Tanager was at Pictou Harbour (NS). Other notables for the area included two Rose-breasted Grosbeak (NS), three Dickcissels (NS & NL), an Eastern Meadowlark (NS) and a Yellow-headed Blackbird (NS). The Harris’s Sparrow at Yarmouth (NS) was an excellent record for the province. Other locally uncommon sparrows were a Field Sparrow (NS) and two Lark Sparrows (NS & NL).

Overall, finch numbers returned to “normal” across the region this season, down considerably from last year’s big showing. Pine Grosbeak (719), Common Redpoll (1965) and Evening Grosbeak (1147) saw the most significant drop compared to last season’s irruption. That being noted, White-winged Crossbill (5118), Purple Finch (3193) and Pine Siskin (1082) reports were up slightly over the same time period. Interestingly, American Goldfinch (17,442) numbers were up ~50% over the past few seasons possibly reflecting a continued growth in the region. House Finch (109) reports in NB & NS were down slightly from last year, while Red Crossbill (203) remained about the same. A lone Hoary Redpoll was recorded at Happy Valley-Goose Bay (NL). House Sparrows (1732) remained relatively stable across all four provinces.

British Columbia

By Monica Nugent and Yousif Attia

A total of 87 Christmas Bird Counts in British Columbia (BC) submitted data for the 122nd (2021-22) count. One new Circle, Jaffray-Wardner, was registered during the 122nd. Sunday, December 19 was the day most counts took place (20), followed by Saturday, December 18 (14), and Monday, December 27 (9). Victoria had the most counters in the field (249), followed by Vancouver (151), Galiano-North Saltspring (133) and Pender Islands (111). Parksville-Qualicum Beach and Galiano SaltSpring Islands tied for the most Feeder Counters (40), followed by Victoria (36) and Creston Valley (32).

A total of 862,131 individual birds of 223 species were tallied by 2669 field counters and 671feeder counters. Victoria was the top count with 136 species on count day. Victoria recorded the highest number of species: 136 species on count day, a decrease of seven species compared to the previous year. Two species only detected during Count Week, American Bittern and Red Knot, both came from Ladner. The top 10 most abundant species in BC, in order of most to least abundant were: Mallard, European Starling, Snow Goose, American Crow, Glaucous-winged Gull, Canada Goose, Dunlin, American Wigeon, Bohemian Waxwing, and Dark-eyed Junco.

The beginning of the season was characterized by typical weather, but a mid-season cold snap and snow early in the new year gripped the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. The coldest count award goes to Tumbler Ridge (-40 Celsius) while Bamfield and Victoria shared the warmest Count Day temperatures (8 Celsius).

Species and notes

Mallard (73,521) was the most abundant waterfowl species reported in BC, followed by Snow Goose (54,077), Canada Goose (48,142), American Wigeon (40,678), and Bufflehead (13,396). The only King Eider reported was in Victoria, one of several noteworthy records from that Circle. Greater Masset had two “Eurasian” Green-winged Teal and a third came from Parskville-Qualicum Beach, up from one in the province last year.  Two Dusky Grouse at Oliver-Osoyoos was the highest count on a North American Circle. The most abundant grebe species was Horned Grebe (2794), followed by Western Grebe (1099), and Red-necked Grebe (925). Following an unprecedented invasion of Short-tailed Shearwaters in the summer and fall of 2022, one was reported at Hecate Strait, where two Northern Fulmars were also.

The only American Bittern in BC was a Count Week bird in Ladner. Nanaimo recorded the highest Pacific Loon total (947) for a North American Circle this year, a title held by Parskville-Qualicum Beach last year. Highlights in the alcid department included two Thick-billed Murres (Galiano-North Saltspring and Hecate Strait), two Cassin’s Auklet at Bamfield, and one Parakeet Auklet also in Hecate Strait. Sidney-South Saltspring had Canadian high counts for all three cormorant species. Dunlin were far and away the most abundant shorebird (43,548) followed by Black Turnstone (2363), and Black-bellied Plover (1801). . North American high counts for Black Oystercatcher (Deep Bay; 189) and Surfbird (Port Clements; 60) also deserve mention. One Marbled Godwit at White Rock-Surrey-Langley was a drop compared to nine the previous year. A Short-billed Dowitcher in Victoria was an excellent record, and one Count Week Red Knot at Ladner is noteworthy. Twelve Least Sandpipers in Ladner was a high Count, and Ladner also had the highest Dunlin count in North America.

A long-staying and very popular Red-shouldered Hawk near the town of Agassiz in the Harrison River CBC was present on Count Day. Bald Eagles were the most abundant raptor and Ladner’s 2174 was a North American high. Owl numbers were the lowest they have been in the past few years. A total of 303 owls of 12 species was a dive compared to 425 individuals of 10 species during the 121st. Singles of Snowy Owl (Vancouver), Long-eared Owl (Pitt Meadows), and Boreal Owl (Lillooet), were the only ones on Count Day, and Smithers had the only two Northern Hawk Owls in the province. A single Prairie Falcon was in Oliver-Osoyoos and single Gyrfalcons were at Abbotsford-Mission, and Pitt Meadows

Pender Island reported the only swallow in the province, a Barn Swallow. It was an irruption year for Bohemian Waxwings, where nearly 33,000 were counted in the province. Surprisingly, Western Scrub-Jays were absent on even Count Week in the province. Numbers of overwintering Western Bluebirds in the Okanagan continue to increase. There were two Mountain Bluebirds at Prince George and one at Oliver-Osoyoos. A Gray Catbird was reported in Vancouver, and Northern Mockingbird was at neighboring Ladner. North American high counts for Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Brown Creeper were reported from Victoria.

Not one, but two Bramblings were in the province during the 122nd: one in Narcosli and one in Revelstoke. Apparently, a new and spreading tradition for the Interior is recording Lesser Goldfinches on CBCs. Revelstoke, Oliver-Osoyoos, and Penticton each had one bird; Kelowna also had one last year. On the heels of last year’s Pine Siskin irruption, Common Redpolls were on the move further south than usual. Small flocks lingered throughout the winter in the southernmost parts of the province. One Chipping Sparrow was at Pender Islands and one Lark Sparrow was at William’s Lake. Again, Victoria reported North American high counts for Fox Sparrow and Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco. The only Rusty Blackbird was in Creston Valley. A Northern Waterthrush at Ladner, a Tennessee Warbler at Victoria, and a Wilson’s Warbler at Ladysmith rounded out the warbler highlights on Count Day.

Manitoba

By Robert Parsons

There were 20 counts held this year, up two from last, with the resumption of some previously canceled by Covid precautions. The loss of the Morden count, with the departure of its compiler, was offset by the resumption of the long-inactive Rivers count.

The weather prior to count period was fairly mild with limited snow. These conditions persisted into count period, but a heavy snowfall on the 27th of December changed things and set the stage for a brutal winter. Two counts scheduled for later in the period had to be postponed and species diversity was lower for later counts than it might have been with possibly both a real decline, and a reduction in observer effort.

Winnipeg easily topped the counts with 48 species, followed by Brandon at 38, Selkirk at 36, and a tie between Glenboro and Portage la Prairie at 35 to round out the top five. At the other end were Cranberry Portage at 14 species, The Pas at 15, Whiteshell at 16, Dauphin at 23 and Gimli at 24 making up the bottom five.

There were 75 count-day species recorded, one more than last year, and one hybrid. Three more species were count-week only: Barred Owl in Balmoral; Eastern Screech-Owl and Townsend’s Solitaire, in Winnipeg. Six species, Downy & Hairy Woodpecker, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Common Redpoll were recorded on every count, although the last was represented by only one on the Lyleton CBC. At the other extreme 17 species were found on one count only. Those not mentioned elsewhere were Ring-necked Pheasant (Lyleton) and Lapland Longspur (Oak Hammock).

The most abundant species was House Sparrow with 21,213, followed by Common Redpoll at 6546, Snow Bunting at 5824, Black-capped Chickadee at 4990 & Rock Pigeon at 4268. By contrast, there were 11 species represented by single individuals, all mentioned elsewhere in this account.

Canada Geese numbered 16 on six counts with nearly half of these at Portage. Seven counts reported Mallards totaling 102, with 81 at Winnipeg. All other waterfowl species consisted of singles—American Black Duck on the Red River, and Lesser Scaup & Ring-necked at a sewage treatment facility, all in Winnipeg; and a Common Goldeneye in Portage.

Whiteshell may have one of the lower species totals, but it did include the only Spruce Grouse (two) in the province this year.

A fairly diverse group of diurnal raptors were seen, including two counts with Golden Eagles (one in Lyleton and three in Glenboro), single Sharp-shinned Hawks at Brandon, Carman & Glenboro, Northern Goshawks on five counts, Bald Eagles on 14 counts (with three counts having 10 each) for a total of 72, a Red-tailed Hawk in Winnipeg and 14 Rough-legged Hawks on seven counts (plus one more as a count week sighting).

Eurasian Collared-Doves numbered 120 across six counts, including a total of 51 at Portage. A total of five Mourning Doves were reported; three at Selkirk and two at Gimli.

Single Northern Hawk Owls were found on four counts, Gimli, Hodgson, Pinawa and Selkirk. Riding Mountain had two Great Gray Owls, the only count day record, although there was a count week report for Pinawa. A Short-eared Owl was a surprise in Winnipeg.

Seven Red-bellied Woodpeckers were reported, with an impressive total of five in Winnipeg and two in Carman. Riding Mountain had the only report of American Three-toed Woodpecker, with two; Black-backed Woodpeckers came in twos at both Riding Mountain & Hodgson.

A couple of lone falcons were seen, a Gyrfalcon at Hodgson and an American Kestrel at Delta.

Canada Jays (as an aside, when will NAS update their website with the right name?) were found on four counts, totaling 99, with the largest number, 31, at Cranberry Portage.

A Chipping Sparrow at Pinawa was exquisitely described. The only other native sparrows found this year were White-throated with singles at Brandon & Glenboro, and 10 in Winnipeg.

Two Northern Cardinals were found in their usual haunts in Winnipeg.

Blackbirds were a little scarcer than usual, with seven Common Grackles on six counts, a Red-winged Blackbird at Brandon (plus a count week sighting at Carman) and a Rusty Blackbird at Cypress River.

American Goldfinches were scarce this year with only 22 reported across three counts, with 19 of them at Cypress River and two at Winnipeg, but perhaps the most surprising was a single bird at The Pas. Although the Common Redpoll numbers were substantial, Hoary Redpolls were scarce in comparison, and other “winter” finches were unremarkable this year, with the possible exception of Pine Grosbeak, which numbered 1541 across 18 counts, exceeding the Evening Grosbeak total of 1205 on 11 counts.

Winnipeg again reported a House x Eurasian Tree Sparrow hybrid, this year back at the usual location—these birds are getting to be a fair age, as their Eurasian Tree Sparrow parent was last recorded in 2018.

Sadly, a couple of counts reported Cooper’s Hawks without any description; these were duly removed. Compilers should be aware this species is rarely found in winter and virtually all reports are in error and so they need details. Other than this, documentation was reasonably good for rarities. Indeed, Pinawa’s description of their Chipping Sparrow should serve as a guideline for all rarities!

Ontario

By Mike Burrell

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 Pandemic loomed large over the CBC season in Ontario, with several regular counts still unable to run. We had 17 counts back that missed year 121 but seven counts went the other direction. Ontario also welcomed two new counts, Flamborough and Kemptville to bring the number of counts run this year to 123 – the third highest total ever. Just three behind the record 126 from two years ago and barring any unforeseen circumstances, count year 123 should be in line for a record year.

The weather patterns leading up to count day always plays a big role. This year, the entire province saw fairly warm temperatures through November but a heavy freeze at the end of the month likely squeezed out some waterbirds and lingering species. Following the cold snap, December leading up to the count period turned very warm, melting virtually all snow in the south. However, many lingering waterbirds had already cleared out of many areas earlier in the fall with the cold snap.

Count day weather was again pretty comfortable this year, with an average low of -7.3° C and high of -2.5° C; about a degree cooler than the last couple of years. 43 counts had temperatures that cracked the freezing mark this year, which, while lower than the past two years of 73 and 51, is high. Thousand Islands was the hotspot with a count day high of 17° C (!); Delta and Kincardine both hit 14° C. Last year no counts cracked +10° C. Hornepayne took the award for coldest Ontario CBC with a low of -34° C although Smooth Rock Falls had the coldest “high” temperature of just -20° C. Twenty-two counts reported no snow at all, up from 16 in year 121 and from 20 in year 120. Many years, every count reports snow. 91 counts (up from 73 in 121 and 78 in 120) had a maximum snow depth of 10 cm or less, so it was an easy year for walking. Moonbeam and Hornepayne tied for the deepest snow, with a maximum snow depth of 90 cm, and 12 counts had 30 cm or more.

There were 3403 observers in the field this year, up about 200 from last year but still about 300 below the couple of years prior to the pandemic. Still, this total represents the fourth highest total ever. Feeder watchers were down about 200 from last year’s record but at 1225, was good enough for second all time. Added together, field and feeder counters totalled 4628, good enough for fourth all time. What was most impressive about this year’s effort was the total time spent in the field; a total of 9020 party hours, which was over 500 more than the last year’s record-setting 8505. Observers logged a very impressive 71,881 km on count days, slightly down from the record 82,270 km of count year 115, but perhaps that’s a testament to how much more time counters spent walking rather than driving this year (possibly thanks to the lack of snow). For the sixth straight year, Ottawa-Gatineau led the pack with the most field observers, this year with 142. Kingston again led the way for feeder counters with a whopping 103.

A total of 1832 species were reported from all counts, the highest total since 2015/16, 11 better than last year’s 172 and four above the average from the past ten years. The total increased by three with the addition of count week species (American Woodcock, Boreal Owl, and Harris’s Sparrow).

Blenheim and Long Point have basically alternated for most species over the last several years and this year Blenheim retook that honour with an incredible 124 species. This isn’t a stat that is easy to look up, but it appears to represent a new all-time high for an Ontario count! Long Point (110) was the only other count that cracked 100 species this year. Seven other counts surpassed 90 species: Hamilton (97), Sandbanks (97), Toronto (96), West Elgin (96), Point Pelee (95), Woodhouse Township (94), and St. Clair N.W.A. (90). Those nine counts at or above 90 represents the highest number to reach that milestone at least in the past ten years (and likely ever). In general, most counts reported above-average species totals, with 91 counts equaling or beating their average from the past seven years and the “average count” up two and a half species. Cambridge (77), London (74), and Brantford (73) led the way for inland counts. Thunder Bay led the way among northern Ontario counts with 47, followed by Nipigon-Red Rock (33) and Dryden (30). Blenheim led the way with a very good total of 20 provincial highs, but perhaps more amazing was first-time count Flamborough chipping in the second most with 17 provincial highs! St. Clair N.W.A. rounded out the top three with 13. Flamborough took top spot for most Canadian highs, with 11, followed by Blenheim (9), and Point Pelee (6). Thirty-five Ontario counts recorded a total of 87 Canadian highs this year.

A total of 1,316,372 individuals were counted, up more than 1.5 million from last year and almost 50,000 above the ten-year average. This was also the third highest total ever and the most since 2015/16. Taking into account the averages from the missing counts this year, we were probably down about 85,000 from what could reasonably be expected, which would have been good enough for second all-time. The top five species this year were European Starling (204,303), Canada Goose (201,703), American Crow (143,627), Mallard (58,041), and Black-capped Chickadee (57,809). The only change from last year was Canada Goose moving back into the top five (at the expense of Mallard).

Despite it being another overall better than average count year, some species were noticeably down. The following 30 species were recorded in numbers of 50% or less of their 20-year average: Snow Goose (44), Ross’s Goose (1), American Wigeon (227), Blue-winged Teal (1), Harlequin Duck (2), Surf Scoter (32), Gray Partridge (25), Red-necked Grebe (52), American Coot (795), Killdeer (4), Purple Sandpiper (1), Lesser Black-backed Gull (9), Glaucous Gull (56), Great Black-backed Gull (696), Northern Hawk Owl (1), Long-eared Owl (18), Red-headed Woodpecker (4), American Three-toed Woodpecker (2), Eastern Phoebe (1), Horned Lark (2817), Boreal Chickadee (29), Brown Thrasher (1), American Pipit (9), Bohemian Waxwing (2183), Lapland Longspur (73), Red-winged Blackbird (1685), Rusty Blackbird (46), Brewer’s Blackbird (1), Brown-headed Cowbird (3169), and Hoary Redpoll (29). Some of these (like Gray Partridge and Great Black-backed Gull) are part of a well-documented long-term decline. Others, such as Boreal Chickadee seem to be heading that same way. The drop in blackbirds almost across the board seems to be largely a result of the heavy cold snap at the end of November pushing them out just before the count period began.

There really wasn’t too much in the way of big misses this year. Great Gray Owl, Gyrfalcon, and Pine Warbler are probably the biggest misses – only the fourth, third, and fifth count day misses, respectively, in the past 20 years.

Conversely, there were some excellent counts recorded, even with fewer counts reporting. The following 37 species reported counts of 50% or more of their 20-year average (two fewer than last year): Greater White-fronted Goose (8), Cackling Goose (97*), Trumpeter Swan (1155*), Tundra Swan (18,014), Northern Shoveler (817), Northern Pintail (621), Green-winged Teal (168), Canvasback (14,237), Ring-necked Duck (1014*), Hooded Merganser (3052), Sharp-tailed Grouse (245*), Red-throated Loon (323), Horned Grebe (181), Double-crested Cormorant (507*), Turkey Vulture (361*), Golden Eagle (29), Cooper’s Hawk (447*), Bald Eagle (2120*), Red-shouldered Hawk (31), Sandhill Crane (7457*), Snowy Owl (164), Barred Owl (120), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2067*), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (41), Merlin (144*), Black-billed Magpie (236*), Winter Wren (208), Marsh Wren (27), Carolina Wren (593*), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (4*), Eastern Bluebird (1324*), Townsend’s Solitaire (3*), Hermit Thrush (112*), Gray Catbird (22), White-throated Sparrow (2270*), and Red Crossbill (264).

Eighteen of those species (marked with an asterisk) above also set new record highs. The theme for species with good showings in 2021/22 were waterbirds (14 species) and then another big group are species that are showing long-term increasing trends (e.g., Bald Eagle, Merlin, Red-bellied Woodpecker etc.). There’s also a pretty big list of species here that would be considered “lingering” species, in particular those that feed primarily on berries in winter (Eastern Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird). White-throated Sparrow and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker likely fall into that last category as well as they tend to spike in years with good berry crops.

Irruptive species were mostly absent from Ontario CBCs this year. Barred and Snowy Owl were the main exception, both having above average years, but both are also showing a trend that way over the past decade or so – possibly an increase or possibly a result of shifting winter ranges (or a combination). The other irruptive owls were all low – only a single Northern Hawk Owl (20-year average of 5), no Great Gray Owls (12) or Boreal Owls (2) on count days. Even Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers were below average. Winter finches, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Bohemian Waxwing were all at or very close to their twenty-year averages with about twice as many under the average than over.

There are always some exciting finds on CBCs, and this year was no exception. The closest we got to a new species was the Eurasian Green-winged Teal on the Toronto count. While considered a subspecies of Green-winged Teal by the American Ornithological Society, some authorities do split it out. Other good finds were the Razorbill on the Niagara Falls count (only the second ever), Least Sandpiper and Nelson’s Sparrow on Blenheim (both only recorded twice before), Rufous Hummingbird on Peel-Halton (4th), Indigo Bunting on Kincardine (4th), Summer Tanager on Woodhouse Township (6th), Pacific Loon on Meaford (9th), and Mountain Bluebird on Guelph (10th).

All in all, it was another excellent CBC season here in Ontario with highs, lows, and everything in between. Here’s to all the hard work the huge team of volunteers put in to making the count a success and for another good year in count year 123-it’s just around the corner!

Québec

By Patrick Filiatrault

The 122th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was successful in Quebec this year. Indeed, there are five species more than the average of the last five counts. A total of 140 species plus two species of domestic origin (Malard (domestic type), Ring-necked Pheasant) and a hybrid Black Duck X Mallard were observed on count day. This total is divided into 49 aquatic species (35% of all species), 24 raptors (diurnal and nocturnal; 17%) and 67 terrestrial birds (grouse, woodpeckers, passerines; 48%). Although the temperatures of November (18th hottest November in 102 years of observations in Quebec) and December (25th hottest December) were above the monthly average, several bodies of water were covered in ice on census days. Snow cover was below normal for most of Quebec, except for Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Haute-Mauricie. Finally, the temperature on count day was favorable in several regions.

Thirty-five counts took place in Quebec, which is below the average (41) of recent years. The counts were held from December 14th to January 4th. The most popular day was December 18th with 18 counts, followed by December 19th and 28th with 4 respectively. A total of 1,144 people took part in the counts, a slight drop compared to previous years, explained by the decrease in the number of counts. The CBC of Quebec had the highest number of observers (160), followed by Lennoxville (86), Montreal (85) and Chicoutimi-Jonquière (72).

Bird species observed in Quebec counts totaled an impressive 345,451 individuals (about 35,000 less than last year). Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu again ranked first with 62,206 birds, mainly due to the presence of Snow Goose (17,000) and American Crow (37,900), followed by St-Timothée (38,196) with 26,028 Snow Geese, and Lennoxville with 35,946 birds (including 28,000 American Crows). Otterburn Park (30,398), Granby (24,864), Quebec (21,170), Longueuil (19,753), Montreal (17,016) and Hudson (10,225) are the other counts to exceed 10,000 birds mark. The CBC of Quebec had the highest number of species (77), followed by Montreal (74), Hudson (70), Otterburn Park (65) and Longueuil (63).

Five species have been reported in all counts areas: Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Common Raven, Blue Jay and Black-capped Chickadee. Hairy Woodpecker and American Goldfinch were noted in 34 CBC. The total number of individuals by species, identified in the 35 RON, which exceeds 10,000 are: American Crow with 97,344 (the majority of which in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Lennoxville and Granby), Canada Goose (44,114), Snow Goose (43,199), European Starling (29,376), Rock Pigeon (16,397) and Black-capped Chickadee (15,714). It is interesting to note that for northern passerines, the numbers fall between the bad and the best years: Bohemian Waxwing (875), Pine Grosbeak (408), Common Redpoll (5,812), Evening Grosbeak (1,693) and Snow Bunting (4,873). Note that Dark-eyed Junco is approaching the years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 (more than 6,000 individuals) with the number of 5,690.

Among species threatened or vulnerable or likely to be designated as such, we note 63 Harlequin Ducks (Forillon, Laval-Ahuntsic, Tadoussac) and 916 Barrow’s Goldeneyes (distributed in 7 CBC). The Bald Eagle totaled 168 individuals distributed in 29 CBC, while the Peregrine Falcon (12 individuals) was reported in 10 CBC. The Short-eared Owl (2 individuals) in Longueuil, Golden Eagle (2) in Quyon-Shawville and St-Timothée and Rusty Blackbird (3) in Neuville and Baie-Comeau are the other species identified.

In terms of rare species (in general or for the season), note the following species observed on count day: Greater White-fronted goose (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Greater Shearwater (Forillon), Green Heron (Montreal), American Coot (Longueuil), Swainson’s Thrush (Quebec), Gray Catbird (Quebec), Pine Warbler (Montreal), Lark Sparrow (Percé), Swamp Sparrow (Montreal), Eastern Towhee (Chicoutimi-Jonquière ), Baltimore Oriole (Quebec).

Finally, let us mention species that are not often reported during counts (census day): Cackling Goose (Otterburn Park), Northern Shoveler (Drummondville), Ring-necked Duck (Otterburn Park), King Eider (Percé), Sharp-tailed Grouse (Parc Aiguebelle), Red-throated Loon (Percé), Northern Gannet (Forillon), Turkey Vulture (Longueuil and Otterburn Park), Purple Sandpiper (Neuville and Tadoussac), Razorbill (Percé), Dovekie (Forillon and Percé ), Lesser Black-backed Gull (Lac-Brome), Northern Hawk Owl (Tadoussac), Long-eared Owl (Longueuil), Yellow-rumped Warbler (Montreal).

Saskatchewan

By Guy Wapple

With the Covid-19 pandemic still a factor, only 37 areas reported, down slightly from 39 in 2020. In spite of that difficult situation, many of the counts went ahead, albeit with safety protocols in place.

With the exception of Gardiner Dam, held on December 14th, cold weather, combined with severe wind-chill values provided for generally miserable counting conditions across Saskatchewan this year.

Weather conditions were on average harsher this year compared to last; lower temperatures and slightly higher winds combined to produce higher wind chill values. This, along with deeper average snow depths, combined to make it more difficult to find birds.

Average minimum and maximum temperatures for the count period (with 2020-21 records in brackets) were -22 to -17 C (-11 to –6 C), wind speeds 11 to 22 km/h (9 to 20 km/h), and snow depths 15 to 29 cm (12 to 26 cm).

For the 4th time in the last 6 years, Gardiner Dam won the provincial crown finding 39 species. Regina 36 (plus 6 cw), Saskatoon (36/5 cw), Moose Jaw (28/5 cw), Craven (28/4 cw), Prince Albert (34/1 cw), Qu’Appelle Valley Dam (31) and Biggar (27/3) were only other counts breaking the magic 30 species mark.

In spite of the challenging weather, the average result actually increased to 23.4 species per count, up from last year’s 19. Having said all that, this was still a fairly decent CBC year in Saskatchewan with 91 species reported.

 

Species highlights:

The only Snow Goose reported was one in Regina, while Gardner Dam set a new provincial record high for Cackling Goose (1800). This species has been steadily increasing during winters on the prairies. Gardiner Dam and Regina had open water and contributed most of the waterfowl highlights including small numbers of Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, and Ruddy Duck.

Two Spruce Grouse at Candle Lake were notable and the Gray Partridge tally (702) in Regina was the highest for North America. A Horned Grebe at Gardiner Dam was only the second on that CBC and the first since 2011. It was the same story for American Coots at Gardiner Dam – it was only the second record for that count and the first since 1975! A record high number of Herring Gulls (24) and one Glaucous Gull were at Gardiner Dam, while the only Wilson’s Snipe in the province was a single at Swift Current.

A species that seems to be declining during winter on the prairies, only one Mourning Dove was reported on Count Day, a single at Bigger. Most of the Great Gray Owls reported on CBCs in North America came from Saskatchewan, where three at Love were also a North American High. The remaining four Count Day individuals came from Candle Lake, Shell Lake, and Torch Valley. Two Northern Hawk Owls were at Candle Lake and Saltcoats and the only Boreal Owl was taking shelter near Rosetown, well south of the Boreal.

Red-bellied Woodpecker continues to invade the eastern and central prairie region with Saskatchewan’s seventh winter record at Watrous-Manitou Beach. A total of seven American Three-toed Woodpeckers on the Prince Albert N.P. CBC was a high count. Black-backed Woodpeckers were slightly less numerous with two at Love and Shell Lake, and a single at Prince Alberta N.P.. The only Gyrfalcons were Count Week birds at Biggar and Saskatoon, while Craven and Qu’Appelle Valley Dam each reported one Peregrine Falcon on their Count Days. One American Kestrel at Qu’Appelle Valley Dam deserves mention and a second Count Week bird was at Broadview.

Qu’Appelle Valley Dam had not one but two Townsend’s Solitaires, and another Count Day bird was at Clark’s Crossing. Also at Clark’s Crossing was a Varied Thrush, while a second was at Prince Albert N.P.. Cedar Waxwings were few and far between this season and reported from only two counts, Saltcoats (7) and Saskatoon (4). Lapland Longspurs are typically found on more southern circles in the province, so a pair at Rosetown was a pleasant surprise.

It was a banner year for Common Redpolls in Saskatchewan with 14,462 on 30 Count Circles; that’s an average of 482 birds per Circle! Hoary Redpolls (112) were also recorded on 16 different Count Circles. A Count Week White-crowned Sparrow was the only one reported, a bird at Prince Albert N.P., and a Count Day Harris’s Sparrow was at Morse. Surprisingly, the only blackbird during the season was a Common Grackle at Moose Jaw.