Devon annual bird count sees another successful year

The 2018 annual Devon bird count was an excellent day for bird watchers and included sightings of many rare bird species.

Photo courtesy Doug Macaulay The annual Devon Christmas bird count saw another great year in 2018, with 41 species recorded, including a Sharp-shinned hawk.

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The 2018 annual Devon bird count was an excellent day for bird watchers and included sightings of many rare bird species.

Count volunteers spotted a total of 3,674 birds, including 41 species. A total of 43 volunteers from Devon and Calmar surveyed 243 kms, totaling 578 hours of their time.

Of birds counted during the day, the high count was Bohemian Waxwings with 1,112 birds spotted. Conditions were ideal for the count on Dec. 27, said count organizer Doug Macaulay.

It was an excellent day,” said Macaulay. “We’ve had a relatively mild winter so far … I think it was about a -5 [degree] day or so and no wind.”

A number of rare sightings occurred on count day, including a Eurasian Collared Dove spotted by Calmar resident Bill Reynolds, American Goldfinches seen by Ross Hodgetts, John Bell and Paul Rymes and a Mallard duck observed by Lisa and Kate Priestley, which are seldom seen.

With open water you can get a few ducks poking around which are really rare to find on Christmas bird counts in the Devon area,” Macaulay remarked. “We were lucky.”

Counters also noted some bird-eye ducks on the river, he added.

A Varied Thrush was also seen by Don Kenyon and Jenise Bidulock. The bird hasn’t been seen in the Devon area since 1994.

This year, the Priestley family conducted some nocturnal owl surveys on both sides of the North Saskatchewan River.

It was very unique for us this year to have somebody doing owls,” Macaulay remarked. “It’s quite a bit more involved.”

Lisa and daughter Kate surveyed the south side, finding Snowy, Great-horned, Boreal and Northern Saw Whet owls. Chuck Priestley and son Sam saw Barred and Great-horned owls, adding five species to the count list, Macaulay said.

Those were really exciting finds,” he commented. “Some years things just line up.

This year broke the record for sightings of Pileated Woodpeckers. Counters saw a total of 21 birds, a record high in 30 years, Macaulay said.

Birds in decline over the past few years are the Evening Grosbeaks, Macaulay said, which were once commonly seen in the Devon area. As mixed wood forest is on the decline in Edmonton, Grosbeak numbers have fallen significantly.

“At one time they were a fairly common feeder bird in the Devon area.”

ejansen@postmedia.com

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