The hairy woodpecker was one of the species spotted during the annual Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 14 in the Hay River area.
Photo courtesy of Gary Vizniowski

For the first time ever, the common raven was not at the top of list when the numbers were tallied for the Dec. 14 Christmas Bird Count in the Hay River area.

However, it was not because of a decline in the number of common ravens, but rather the volunteers for the count were not allowed in the town dump.

“The total number of birds observed is down considerably, mainly due to the dump being off limits due to the fire earlier this year,” said Gary Vizniowski, the compiler for the Christmas Bird Count in Hay River, noting the number of ravens was way down compared to last year.

Just 30 ravens were spotted, compared to 328 for the last count in mid-December of 2018.

Vizniowski noted that 250-300 ravens are usually spotted each year at the dump.

This year, the most counted bird was the common redpoll with 96, followed by 70 Bohemian waxwings.

The common raven placed third.

Vizniowski said the total number of bird species counted was 15, which is about average.

In the previous count, 13 species of birds were spotted.

In the recent count, a total of 348 birds were spotted, compared to 564 the previous year.

No out-of-range birds were observed during the count.

“I wasn’t expecting anything different,” said Vizniowski, noting that no unusual birds had been reported in the area in the couple of months leading up to the count.

A Christmas Bird Count has taken place in the Hay River area since the 1970s, except for a few years in the early 2000s.

There were about 10 volunteers involved in the count, said Vizniowski. “We had about four new ones this year.”

The count is part of an international conservation initiative that began 120 years ago.

Each year, Birds Canada and the National Audubon Society co-ordinate more than 2,500 counts across Canada and the United States, as well as in Latin America, the Caribbean and some Pacific Islands.The data collected contributes long-term information on how winter birds are faring.

A Christmas Bird Count must be held sometime between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.

The count in Hay River takes place within an unchanging designated circle, which is 24 km in diameter and centred near the Hay River Regional Health Centre.

Christmas Bird Count totals

for Hay River area include:

Common redpoll                     96

Bohemian waxwings                70

Common raven                       30

Black-billed magpie                 30

Black-capped chickadee           30

Pine grosbeak                         22

Canada jay                             17

Hairy woodpecker                   13

Boreal chickadee                      9

Downy woodpecker                  8

Hoary redpoll                           7

House sparrow                         6

Evening grosbeak                     5

Red-breasted nuthatch             4

Ruffed grouse                          1


Total species on count day        15

Total birds on count day           348


Two pileated woodpeckers were also spotted during count week, which is three days before and three days after count day.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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