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Clark's Crossing Christmas Bird Count (18th annual) - 20. December 2008

By Michael Williams, count compiler

I am sure that most of you remember the severe cold spell that began on Dec. 13 and lasted until at least the first week in January - a period that coincides almost exactly with the official Christmas bird count period which lasts from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 inclusively each year. Talk about timing! The three local counts, held on Dec. 20, 26, and Jan. 3 were all affected by this icy arctic air - but I am happy to report that the dedicated participants were up to the challenge, and even the birds were reasonably cooperative.

This Clark's Crossing count area is centred on the river immediately north of the city and includes the communities of Martensville, Warman, and Osler. Though not the coldest, it was probably the least enjoyable count owing to the dull overcast, ice crystals, strong north wind and blowing snow. Few birds were seen in open countryside; most were present in the vicinity of bird feeders and shelter belts. The river was frozen solid except for a short stretch near the south edge of the count circle. Here we were fortunate to see a number of Common Goldeneye ducks (36).

Game birds were scarce: Gray Partridge (30) and Sharp-tailed Grouse (11). Birds appearing on this count for the first time: an American Crow spotted by Regina Koenders and a White-breasted Nuthatch seen by Marten Stoffel.

Raptors included one Bald Eagle, two Merlins, and one Gyrfalcon. Great Horned Owls (4) and Snowy Owls (3) were the only other predators.

One common Grackle and one Brown Creeper were both seen for only the second time; both appearing previously in 2001. Fewer European Starlings (16) and House Sparrows (1,389) were seen than usual, possibly due to the bad weather, and Black-billed Magpies (153) remain scarce for the third year in a row.

Many species appeared in roughly average numbers: Downy Woodpecker (5), Hairy Woodpecker (8), Black-capped Chickadee (126), Red-breasted Nuthatch ( 2), Blue Jay (2), American Robin (1), Rock Pigeon (232). Winter visitors were represented by Snow Buntings (245), Common Redpolls (332, nearly all in the Strawberry Hills), and one White-winged Crossbill.

To finish on a more positive note, House Finches ( 36) and Common Ravens (102) were present in near record numbers. Many thanks to the twenty-three participants who braved the weather to count 2,742 birds comprising a respectable total of 27 species.

Last updated: 6 April, 2009