Prairie Provinces: Fall 2020

Fall 2020: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Christian Artuso

James Fox

Rudolf Koes

Recommended citation: 

Artuso, C., J. Fox and R. Koes. 2021. Fall 2020: Prairie Provinces. <> North American Birds.

Fall 2020 was dry across the south of the Prairie Provinces, with temperatures near normal except for a long cold spell in Manitoba in October. This cold weather resulted in smaller waterbodies freezing over and a rather early exodus of most water birds. By season’s end, snow cover remained minimal across the south of the region. Although some very rare shorebirds were recorded in Alberta, overall numbers remained low due to dry conditions, continuing a disheartening recent trend.


Lee Adam, Christian Artuso, Doug Beckingham, Charles Begley, Jan Bradley, Jordie Brown, Garry Budyk, Don Cassidy, Trevor Catchpole, Carol Chapman, Red Clarke, Richard Clarke, Vince Cotterill, Corinne Dagenais, Larry de March, Neil Denton, Curtis De Pena, Justin de Vlieg, Teresa Dolman, Ryan Dudragne, Steve Dyke, James Fox, Joel Frank, Brian Genereux, Ben Ginter, Carol Goossen, Maureen Hills-Urbat, Dale Hjertaas, Paule Hjertaas, Naomi Hutchinson, Aaron Janzen, Joel Kayer, Richard Klauke, Laurie Koepke, Rudolf Koes, George Koopmans, Bob Luterbach, Carol McCracken, Jock McCracken, Deborah MacEwen, Annie McLeod, Ray Méthot, Cam Meuckon, Randy Mooi, Cam Nikkel, Wayne Oakes, Ken Orich, Robert Parsons, John Peetsma, David Raitt, Andy Ross, Chris Roy, Shirley J. Rushford Guinn, Craig Salisbury, Daniel Sawatzky, Tannis Sharp, Mary Shupe-Moore, Evanna Simpson, Dan Sloan, Jo Swartz, Peter Taylor, June Thompson, Sharlene Toole, Josiah Van Egmond, Cornel Van Ryk, Don Weidl, Ray Wershler.


PP (Provincial Park).

Waterfowl Through Herons

Delta Marsh, MB hosted some 50,000 Blue-winged Teal 2 Aug (Cam Meuckon). Harlequin Ducks were good finds at Regina Beach, SK 3 Oct (Bob Luterbach), at Delta on 24 Oct (Robert Parsons, Jo Swartz) and at Willow Island, MB 8 Nov (Jan Bradley, ph.). In Alberta, Black Scoters were recorded at Genesee Lake 10 Oct (ph. Andy Ross, m. ob.), Glenmore Reservoir 14–20 Oct (m. ob., ph.) and Cold Lake 27 Oct (ph. Richard Klauke); one was at Sorenson Beach, SK 27 Oct (Dale Hjertaas); while in Manitoba, birds were reported at Delta (up to four birds), Morden and Pine Falls, the latter on the late date of 21 Nov (Josiah Van Egmond). Single White-winged Doves were noted north of Dawson Bay, MB 30 Aug (Joel Kayer) and Vilna, AB 8 Nov–12 Dec (ph. Mary Shupe-Moore). A White-throated Swift at Sheep River PP, AB 10 Sep was notable (Ray Wershler). Anna’s Hummingbirds were prominent in Alberta, with at least seven records from 7 Aug on (m. ob.), including one surviving well into the winter (See winter 2020-21 report). A Costa’s Hummingbird was photographed near Beaver Mines in southwestern Alberta in early September, but additional details are lacking (fide James Fox). A Calliope Hummingbird, only the second for Saskatchewan, was found at Swift Current 9 Aug (ph. Jordie Brown).

A tally of 1,094 Sandhill Cranes in the Whitemouth area 5 Sep was high for southeastern Manitoba (Peter Taylor). A Whooping Crane at Whitewater Lake, MB 20 Aug–4 Sep (m. ob.) possibly summered at that location, earlier reports on 24 Apr (Doug Beckingham, ph. Trevor Catchpole) and 26 Jul (John Peetsma). Two Semipalmated Plovers at Delta 25 Oct were record-late (Cam Nikkel, Curtis De Pena, m. ob.). A Ruff was at Calgary, AB 31 Aug–7 Sep (Don Cassidy, m. ob., ph.). Equally rare were single Sharp-tailed Sandpipers near Calgary 18 Aug (Richard Clarke), at Hairy Hill, AB 20 Sep (ph. Richard Klauke) and at Frank Lake, AB 7 Oct (m. ob., ph.). A Purple Sandpiper at Didsbury 18–19 Sep provided Alberta with its second-ever record (ph. Maureen Hills-Urbat). About 3,000 phalaropes, mostly Wilson’s, were seen during a survey at Delta 2 Aug, providing Manitoba’s largest number in memory (Cam Meuckon). A Red Phalarope lingered at Calgary from 17–21 Sep (ph. Justin de Vlieg), while another visited Ekapo Lake, SK 24 Oct (ph. Don Weidl). Alberta Parasitic Jaeger reports came from Cooking Lake 13 Sep and Lac la Biche 15 Sep (both Richard Klauke) and Raymond 26–27 Sep (Asher Warkentin); while in Saskatchewan, one was at Last Mountain Lake 5 Sep (Daniel Sawatzky). In Manitoba they were at Cedar Lake (two) 5 Sep (ph. David Raitt), Victoria Beach 20 Sep (Josiah Van Egmond, ph. Christian Artuso) and Grand Beach 12 Oct (ph. Pierre Richard). A Long-tailed Jaeger at Victoria Beach 20 Sep provided the first Manitoba fall record for this species since 1902 (Josiah Van Egmond, Christian Artuso); one was present at Medicine Hat, AB 1–6 Aug (George Koopmans, m. ob., ph.).

A Black-legged Kittiwake, nicely photographed near Twin Lakes Beach, MB 17 Oct, was the third for the south of the province (ph. Shirley J. Rushford Guinn). Sabine’s Gull always adds spice to fall birding; single birds were observed at Delta Beach 7 Sep (Cam Nikkel) and at Condie Nature Refuge, SK 29 Sep–4 Oct (Paule Hjertaas; Ryan Dudragne, m.ob.). Equally rare was a Little Gull at Regina Beach 19 Oct (Daniel Sawatzky). Pacific Loons are regular fall migrants in small numbers through southern Alberta, but a gathering of 22 at Glenmore Reservoir on 19 Oct was unprecedented (m. ob., ph.). Also of note were three Yellow-billed Loons in southern Alberta (m. ob., ph.), providing the first records in five years. There were relatively few “southern” herons. Alberta hosted at least four Great Egrets and one was reported in Saskatchewan, while as a regular breeder in Manitoba the species draws little attention. The only Cattle Egret reports came from Whitford Lake, AB 2–3 Sep (ph. Brian Genereux, m. ob.), Winkler, MB 2 Sep (Ben Ginter) and the Wilkes Sewage Lagoons at Winnipeg, MB 6 Sep (Naomi Hutchinson).

Diurnal Raptors through Passerines

A juvenile Mississippi Kite made a brief visit to a Winnipeg park. It represented the fourth confirmed record for the province, after the first sightings in 2014 (ph. Rudolf Koes). There were at least three unconfirmed reports during the summer of 2020. A Barn Owl, photographed in Winnipeg 29 Oct (ph. Dan Sloan), could not be relocated. There are about 15 previous records for Manitoba. There were two successful nests of wild Burrowing Owls in Manitoba, the first in years (fide Alex Froese, Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program). Captive breeding and release has been taking place for years, with little success, as young birds rarely return to the province. Northern Hawk Owls at Delta 15 Sep (Jo Swartz, Jan Bradley) and Portage la Prairie, MB 25 Oct (ph. Garry Budyk, Rudolf Koes) were out-of-range for the time of year. A Belted Kingfisher at Pine Falls, MB 21 Nov was one of the province’s latest-ever (Josiah Van Egmond). Lewis’s Woodpecker is declining in Canada, so reports at Cremona, AB 13–19 Sep (ph. Steve Dyke) and Sheep River PP, AB 27 Sep (ph. Chris Roy) were welcome sightings. One at Young, SK 1 Nov was the first for Saskatchewan since 2012 (ph. Craig Salisbury). Two Red-headed Woodpeckers were west of their usual range at Edson, AB 14 Nov (Joel Frank). Alberta had its third Red-breasted Sapsucker of the year, at Pincher Creek on 14 November (ph. Cornel Van Ryk).

A Tyrannus flycatcher, tentatively identified as Tropical Kingbird, was photographed 16 Aug south of Saskatoon, SK (ph. Deborah MacEwen). It provided the first record for the region. A “Traill’s” Flycatcher, likely Alder, at Winnipeg 4 Oct was record-late (Randy Mooi). Carolina Wrens were prominent in southern Manitoba, with sightings at Killarney 22–25 Oct (video, Carol Chapman), Winnipeg 31 Oct–1+ Jan 2021 (Carol Goossen, ph. Charles Begley, m. ob.) and Whyte Ridge, Winnipeg 22 Nov (ph. Lee Adam). A Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Winnipeg 26–28 Nov was exceptionally late (Larry de March). A Curve-billed Thrasher at Dalmeny, SK, the second record for that location and only the third for the province, was a one-day wonder 3 Aug (ph. Corinne Dagenais). A Northern Mockingbird visited Canmore, AB 6–7 Sep (ph. Neil Denton). A Swainson’s Thrush at Buffalo Pound PP, SK 2 Nov was very tardy (Annie McLeod). Evening Grosbeak numbers have been on the decline in Manitoba for years, so it was heartening to see a major influx from mid-November on. More on this incursion will follow in the winter report. White-winged Crossbills were also prominent, but redpolls were rather scarce. Overall winter finch numbers were low at the end of the period in Alberta. An Indigo Bunting in Winnipeg 11–12 Oct was record-late (Red Clarke). Summer Tanagers added color to the fall near Weyburn, SK 17 Oct (ph. Laurie Koepke), near Edmonton, AB 21 Oct (ph. Tannis Sharp) and at Winnipeg 28–29 Oct (ph. June Thompson). Dickcissels had been prominent in southern Manitoba in summer 2020, with a few birds lingering at St. Norbert until at least 4 Aug (Rudolf Koes).

Northern Parulas at Waterton, AB 4 Aug (audio, Teresa Dolman) and at Edmonton 21–31 Oct (Vince Cotterill, m. ob., ph.) were well east of their expected range. Black-throated Blue Warblers were at Lethbridge, AB 9 Sep (ph. Ken Orich), Edmonton 26 Sep–4 Oct (Wayne Oakes, m. ob., ph.), Watrous, SK 19–20 Sep (ph. Sharlene Toole), Winnipeg 21 Sep (Robert Parsons), Sandy Hook, MB 26 Sep (Jock and Carol McCracken, Ray Méthot) and Winnipeg 4 Oct (Aaron Janzen, ph. Cam Nikkel). Townsend’s Warbler is an irregular visitant to southern Saskatchewan, primarily in fall. One was at Wascana Lake, Regina 5 Sep (Daniel Sawatzky). The species is long overdue in Manitoba. A Common Yellowthroat at Regina 6 Nov was exceptionally late (ph. Evanna Simpson).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 29 Mar 2021.

Photos–Prairie Provinces: Fall 2020

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