Christmas Bird Count: bad day for weather, good day for birds

Patti Campsall
For the Lakeside Leader

After heading out on a cold and windy Sunday to record the wintering birds in the Slave Lake Area, we didn’t hold out much hope of finding many birds for our Christmas Bird Count this year. But thanks to one of the best turnouts ever for participants, we recorded 2,078 birds from 26 different species! Very close to our highest year back in 2015, with 2,130 birds recorded from 27 species.

Once again, top species for the Slave Lake area was the common raven (867) thanks to the required stop at the regional landfill. If you are ever wondering why our raven count is so high, over 80 per cent of them were spotted in that area. Our birders have been taking advantage of digital photography to estimate total numbers of birds within these large flocks discovered in some spots. Other top-five species included pine grosbeak, bohemian waxwing, common redpoll and of course black-capped chickadee.

The common theme from all the groups is that they had a great time despite the weather, and every group had some highlight birds for the day. Some of those highlights included a great gray owl (only the fourth time spotted on a count), white-winged crossbills, pileated woodpecker, sharp tailed grouse, dark-eyed junco, and golden-crowned kinglets. Unfortunately, the tundra swan that had been hanging out at the river mouth didn’t make an appearance on Sunday, but one brave common goldeneye was spotted there among the whitecaps. We didn’t see any bald eagles this year; however we did record two northern hawk owls, which are always a highlight.

Thank you to all the participants and especially to the new people who joined us this year for all your help with this important citizen science program. For over 100 years, the Audubon society has been using the data from Christmas Bird Counts to provide information on the status and health of wintering bird populations across North America.

Participants in the annual Slave Lake Christmas Bird Count.

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