Christmas Bird Count 2018/19
Winter came early this year, starting in September when we experienced at least one day when the temperature failed to climb above zero, followed by the second coldest October on record and a below average temperature November, although very little snow fell. Surprisingly, December was comparatively pleasant and when count period arrived, most counts enjoyed pleasant conditions, although the first Saturday of count period was quite windy. When compilers commented on their count day weather, it was generally positive.
Apparently twenty-one counts were held this year, which would be an increase of one over last year, although I only had results from seventeen by my deadline. The promptness by these sixteen compilers is most appreciated! It was great to see the Portage la Prairie count revived. Winnipeg had the highest species total at 52, followed distantly by Cypress River/Spruce Woods (36), Hodgson & Oak Hammock Marsh (both 34) and Pinawa-Lac du Bonnet (33) rounding out the top five. At the other end were Cranberry Portage (17), Whiteshell (19), The Pas (22) and Balmoral & Dauphin (both 24) rounding out the bottom five.
There were 78 count day species recorded, three better than last year, plus three more (American Black Duck at Winnipeg; Spruce Grouse at both Cranberry Portage & The Pas; and Sharp-shinned Hawk at Glenboro) in Count Week (CW) only, any of the three days before or after the count, but not seen on count day, itself. Eight species were recorded on every count, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch and Common Redpoll. At the other extreme were 23 species seen on one count only. Those not mentioned elsewhere are Ring-necked Pheasant (Lyleton), Eastern Screech-Owl (Winnipeg), and Northern Hawk Owl (Pinawa). This is higher than usual, and probably will drop if the missing-in-action counts materialize.
The only Gallinaceous bird that prompted comment was Sharp-tailed Grouse, in high numbers on several counts, including Balmoral (140, a record high), Gimli (305) and Oak Hammock (140).
The early arrival of winter resulted in fewer than usual water related individual birds, but the few were a nice variety, including Tundra Swan, Eared Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant and Glaucous Gull in Winnipeg, all first time count occurrences there; Cackling Goose at Selkirk, a first count occurrence there; and American White Pelican at Oak Hammock. A Ring-necked Duck in Winnipeg was nearly unique, but for a CW bird at Pinawa.
The lone CW report at Glenboro of Sharp-shinned Hawk was surprisingly low after last year’s strong showing. Having said that, however, diurnal raptors were thin, with the exception of Bald Eagles, which were highlighted as in high numbers on several counts, with especially impressive concentrations of 14 at Lyleton and 12 at Pinawa. One Red-tailed Hawk was a good find at Lyleton, a first count appearance. There was one Rough-legged Hawk at Winnipeg and a CW occurrence at The Pas. An immature Golden Eagle was strikingly photographed at Gimli.
There were 87 Eurasian Collared-Doves on four counts, with 45 at Cypress River, 23 at Glenboro, 4 at Lyleton (after a several year hiatus) and 15 at Portage, probably on track for a record high, as three of the four missing counts may add more. Mourning Doves numbered four, with two at Oak Hammock and singles at Selkirk and Winnipeg.
Owls were not numerous and the only unusual species was a Northern Saw-whet Owl in Winnipeg.
Hodgson had the only Red-headed Woodpecker. Although there were other Red-bellied Woodpeckers present in Winnipeg, only one was found there on count day. Hodgson provided the only American Three-toed Woodpecker this year.
Falcons of note included an American Kestrel at Winnipeg, scarce even in breeding season there in recent years, and Gyrfalcons at Selkirk & Winnipeg.
Horned Larks are fairly rare in early and mid-winter, usually recorded only at Lyleton with any regularity, but missed there this year. The only record was one at The Pas, of all places.
It certainly was a banner year for Red-breasted Nuthatches. I don’t believe they have ever been recorded on all counts before. They rivaled White-breasted Nuthatches on several counts. Particularly impressive were 55 in Whiteshell and 70 in Winnipeg.
Single Varied Thrushes were at Pinawa & Winnipeg.
A few unexpected sparrows were two Fox Sparrows in Winnipeg and a CW bird at The Pas, a Song Sparrow photographed at Hodgson and a White-crowned Sparrow at Gimli.
Two counts had Northern Cardinal, with two in Winnipeg and one in Selkirk.
There were some Icterid highlights. A Yellow-headed Blackbird frequented the feeding station at Oak Hammock, along with Red-winged Blackbirds. The latter species was also seen on several other counts including fairly high numbers at Lyleton (36) & Cypress River (24). A Western Meadowlark was at Glenboro, a first ever for them, and a Brown-headed Cowbird was at Gimli. Both of these were photographed.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are often highly correlated with winter finch numbers, but this doesn’t seem to be one of those times. While Pine Siskins were a little more numerous than usual, with 200 at Winnipeg being noteworthy, most others, such as Common Redpolls were in average to slightly below average numbers, and Hoary Redpolls were at a lower ratio to Common Redpolls than usual. I wonder if the on-again-off-again lumping discussion has caused a lack of motivation among some birders to look carefully at them. Evening Grosbeaks continue to be low, relative to both their distant and more recent past totals.
Winnipeg’s long staying Eurasian Tree Sparrow appears to be gone, but hybrids remain, with two noted on the CBC.
All Manitoba CBCs can be viewed on the National Audubon Society website and I can also provide an Excel file of all the counts to anyone requesting it. Thank you to all compilers and everyone who took part.