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Pike Lake Christmas Bird Count - 3. January 2009

By Frank Roy, count compiler

The Pike Lake count, always the last of the local counts, generally takes place after New Year’s. We had to wait until the coldest weather of the winter, or so it seemed, as we headed out to the area on the morning of January 3. With a temperature of -34°C and a wind chill of -50°C, we didn't expect to see many birds. But the day was sunny, it warmed up to -31°C, and we ended up with 31 species, second highest total in 25 years of counts.

Even more than usual, we appreciated the lunch break, held traditionally in the basement of the Anglican Church. We are grateful to Nancy and Dwight Young who made the arrangements and made us feel very welcome. And special thanks this year to Hilda Noton who organized the count.

Because of the cold, we did not cover the east side of the count-circle across the river. That sector requires a lot of walking with little or no chance of seeking shelter. Contrary to expectations, we did find a few species of birds that don’t often turn up on winter counts, among them a Townsend’s Solitaire, a Rusty Blackbird, a Dark-eyed Junco, and 2 White-throated Sparrows. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the number of robins. In years when wild fruit (buffalo berry, choke cherry, high bush cranberry and saskatoon) is abundant, some robins remain; most of them surviving the winter. Since 1983 there have been four good robin counts at Pike Lake: 106 in 1986, 114 in 1996, 128 in 2001 and 123 this year.

The species count: Gray Partridge,4; Ruffed Grouse, 1; Sharp-tailed Grouse, 41; Rock Pigeon, 46; Great Horned Owl, 5;Downy Woodpecker, 25; Hairy Woodpecker, 15; Northern Flicker, 3; Pileated Woodpecker, 1; Blue Jay, 24; Black-billed Magpie, 150; Common Raven, 38; Black-capped Chickadee, 499 (an all-time high); Red-breasted Nuthatch, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 17; Townsend’s Solitaire, 1; American Robin, 123; Bohemian Waxwing, 37; Northern Shrike, 2; Horned Lark, 5; European Starling, 14; White-throated Sparrow, 2; Dark-eyed Junco, 1; Snow Bunting, 698; Rusty Blackbird, 1; Pine Grosbeak, 42; Purple Finch, 7; House Finch, 41 (we’ve never had more than 1 before); Common Redpoll, 35; Evening Grosbeak, 6; and House Sparrow, 660.

Last updated: 6 April, 2009