Manitoba Christmas Bird Counts – December 2016 – January 2017
Seventeen Christmas Bird Counts were held in Manitoba between 14 December 2016 and 4 January 2017 in, generally, very cold conditions. Counts covered the southern portion of the province, but were also held in northern locations, such as Cranberry Portage, The Pas and Thompson.
Brandon and Winnipeg shared top honours with totals of 48 species each, with both counts adding another two species during count week. Notwithstanding the cold conditions, many observers ventured out and were rewarded with some interesting birds.
Waterfowl were scarce, with the most noteworthy sightings being a Lesser Scaup at Winnipeg, single Hooded Mergansers at Minnedosa and Winnipeg, and a Common Merganser on the Oak Hammock Marsh count (with a count week bird at Pinawa – Lac du Bonnet). Willow Ptarmigan was reported count week at Thompson; Hodgson had the best Sharp-tailed Grouse numbers, at 137. Wild Turkey tallies of 97 at Brandon and 67 at Glenboro – Spruce Woods were noteworthy.
Bald Eagles numbers continue to increase in early winter. The highest counts were eight at Balmoral, five at Winnipeg and four at Pinawa – Lac du Bonnet. Like Bald Eagles, increasing numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawks winter in the province. Brandon had three, Delta one, Glenboro – Spruce Woods one, Winnipeg one (a bird at Pinawa – Lac du Bonnet was seen count week).
Cooper’s Hawk is much rarer in winter, but one was at Brandon and one was photographed at Winnipeg. Also rare were two Red-tailed Hawks at Winnipeg. It was a good year for lingering Rough-legged Hawks; seven were found at Winnipeg and other reports came from Delta, Glenboro – Spruce Woods, Minnedosa and Oak Hammock Marsh. Golden Eagles at Brandon and Cypress River – Spruce Woods added spice to those counts.
It was a rather quiet year for owls. Snowies were in short supply and only seen at Balmoral, Brandon, Cypress River – Spruce Woods, Gimli, Oak Hammock Marsh and Winnipeg. Northern Hawk Owls were at Gimli and Pinawa – Lac du Bonnet (count week), while Great Grays were seen at Hodgson, Pinawa – Lac du Bonnet and The Pas (count week birds were at Thompson and Whiteshell).
Red-bellied Woodpeckers continued their strong showing from the fall. They were found at Brandon, Delta, Morden (two), Oak Hammock Marsh and Winnipeg (two). Gyrfalcons are among the most iconic of winter birds, and birders at Glenboro – Spruce Woods, Oak Hammock Marsh and Pinawa – Lac du Bonnet were lucky to see them.
Common Ravens are thriving; Winnipeg had a record-high count of 301. The only report of Golden-crowned Kinglet came from Hodgson. It is a wonder how these tiny sprites survive. Minnedosa had a Varied Thrush, while another one at Winnipeg was seen only during count week. Also rare were a Townsend’s Solitaire at Winnipeg and a Brown Thrasher at Balmoral. Winnipeg enjoyed a fine incursion of Bohemian Waxwings, with 2766 reported (By late January they seemed to have vanished, after stripping all the mountain ash of berries).
A Spotted Towhee at Winnipeg was the rarest of the sparrows reported on the counts, but also noteworthy were a Harris’s Sparrow at Brandon, a White-crowned Sparrow at Glenboro – Spruce Woods and a Fox Sparrow at Winnipeg. Unprecedented numbers of Purple Finches lingered, with best counts of 46 at Brandon, 62 at Cypress River – Spruce Woods, 130 at Glenboro- Spruce Woods and a staggering 382 at Pinawa – Lac du Bonnet.
Counts in the west of the province also recorded high numbers of American Goldfinches: 203 were at Cypress River – Spruce Woods and 404 were at Glenboro – Spruce Woods. And finally, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow which had graced the Winnipeg count in the past two years did not show up on count day, but was seen during count week.
By Rudolf Koes