Prairie Provinces: Spring 2022
Spring 2022: 1 Mar–31 May
Koes, R.F., and J. Fox. 2022. Spring 2022: Prairie Provinces. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-eWY> North American Birds.
After an abnormally dry 2021 the spring of 2022 became one of the wettest on record, particularly in southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. A series of Colorado Lows brought snow, followed by rain, resulting in the wettest April since 1896 in Winnipeg, while May saw three times the normal amount of rain. Temperatures were also below normal throughout the region. Not withstanding these conditions, or perhaps because of them, the region hosted numerous species both north and west of their usual ranges. Rufous Hummingbird, Glaucous-winged Gull, Western Wood-Pewee, Bullock’s Oriole, MacGillivray’s Warbler and Western Tanager all arrived from the west, while Green-tailed Towhee, Summer Tanager and Painted Bunting reached the region from the south. Alberta added Chimney Swift and Bar-tailed Godwit to its all-time list and Manitoba hosted long-overdue confirmed Bullock’s Orioles.
Geese through Terns
Single Brants, very rare migrants in the south of the region, were found at Grande Prairie, AB 31 Mar (Moira Cooke, ph.), Blackstrap Reservoir, SK 17 Apr (Brennan Bantle, ph. Leah Frei), and Saskatoon, SK 29 Apr and 1 May (Caitlin Acquroff, m. ob., ph.). A gathering of 700 Tundra Swans at St. Jean Baptiste, MB on 6 May was unusually large (Luc Blanchette). A Garganey was present for several days from 30 May on at Tofield, AB (m. ob., ph.). Red-breasted Mergansers massed at Hecla Island, MB, where 1200 were seen on 18 May (B. Shettler). A White-winged Dove at Winnipeg, MB 7–8 May proved elusive (Dusty Molinski, Pat Wally, ph.). A Chimney Swift at Calgary 20 May was the first for Alberta (Calvin Snider, ph.), while a bird at Regina, SK 14 May was also west of its normal range (Brett Quiring, m. ob.). A Vaux’s Swift was found on 24 May at Waterton NP, AB, the only location in the province where the species is seen with any regularity (Bradley Yee, ph.). Black-chinned Hummingbirds continue to be reported in Alberta, with three sightings between 17 and 31 May, at Pincher Creek and Mountain View (Asher Warkentin, Cornel van Ryk, Nancy West, ph.). A male Rufous Hummingbird visited the same rural garden that hosted a Bullock’s Oriole, at Petersfield, MB 20–22 May (Rob Berger, m. ob., ph.).
Shorebird migration on the whole was considered dismal across the south of the region. Although there was adequate habitat, there were no concentrations to speak of. A Black-necked Stilt x American Avocet at Piapot, SK 18 May was an interesting find (Erica Alex, m. ob., ph.). Black-necked Stilts continue to expand northwards, reaching the southern edge of the boreal forest in Alberta. In Saskatchewan there were reports from Swift Current, Brightwater Marsh, Saskatoon, Cochin and Uren Marsh between 23 Apr and 15 May; on the latter date 21 were seen at Uren Marsh (m. ob., ph.). Two Snowy Plovers were found at Calgary 17 May (m. ob., ph.). A Bar-tailed Godwit at Tyrell Lake, AB 11 May was a provincial first (David Scott, ph.). An American Woodcock was seen 6 Apr at an undisclosed location in southern Alberta during a nocturnal owling trip (anon., ph.). There is one previous record for the province. A Red Phalarope at Coleman Lake, AB 16 May was a rare migrant (Gerry & James Fox).
Rare gulls were reported in far greater numbers than usual. A Black-legged Kittiwake was a great find at Frank Lake, Alberta 26 May (Mike Rossum, ph.). A California Gull at Wascana Lake, SK 13 Mar was early, given the cold spring (Brett Quiring). Iceland Gulls (Thayer’s) were noted at Wascana Marsh, SK 31 Mar (Jared Clarke), Saskatoon, SK 15–29 Apr (Ryan Dudragne, ph.), the Brady Road dump, MB 3–4 May (m. ob.), and at the PR 227 dump, MB 14–25 May (m. ob.). An Iceland Gull, likely of the glaucoides race, was at the Brady Road dump 2 May (Rudolf Koes, m. ob., ph.). Iceland Gull is a regular migrant in small numbers in Alberta. Lesser Black-backed Gulls have become annual visitors in the Prairie Provinces. In Alberta, most reports usually come from Calgary, but this spring singles were also seen at the Ryley Landfill 21 Apr (James & Gerry Fox, ph.) and Fort McMurray 29 May (anon., ph.). In Saskatchewan the species was found at Wascana Marsh 31 Mar–3 Apr (Jared Clarke, ph.), Saskatoon 16–29 Apr (John Lundgren, m. ob., ph.), and Regina 23–25 Apr (Dale Hjertaas, Bob Luterbach, ph.). In Manitoba, up to four were at the Brady Road dump 2–4 May (m. ob., ph.) and another four were at the PR. 227 dump 14–30 May (m. ob., ph.). There were three reports of Glaucous-winged Gull at Calgary between 12 and 23 Apr, possibly all involving the same individual (Evan Walters, Nathan Heuver, Ian Maton, ph.). Each province had records of Glaucous Gull. An Arctic Tern was at Cold Lake, AB 25 May (Bruce Di Labio, Tom Hince) and another was at Cattleland Slough, AB from 28 May into June (m. ob., ph.). The species is somewhat regularly recorded at the former location, while it has occurred annually at the latter location in recent years.
Herons through Woodpeckers
Snowy Egrets were spotted at Tyrrell Lake, AB 11 May (David Scott, ph.) and at Shoal Lakes, MB 25 May (Chris Meiklejohn) and 5 Jun (John Weier). A Glossy Ibis was a good find at Pakowki Lake, AB 8 May (David Bell, Liam Singh, ph.). While White-faced Ibis continues to expand its range north in Alberta, numbers have plummeted in Manitoba. Hundreds of birds were present as recently as 2020, particularly at Whitewater Lake and the Oak Lake/Plum Marshes complex, but in the past two years only a handful have been reported.
The diurnal raptor migration in southern Manitoba was a drawn-out affair, with few peaks or notable records, although a Red-shouldered Hawk at Windygates 4 May (Ben Ginter, m. ob., ph.) and a Ferruginous Hawk nearby on 9 Apr (Rudolf Koes, Garry Budyk, Peter Taylor) were rare. A Ferruginous Hawk at Tofield, AB 26 Mar was quite far north so early in the year (Irene Crosland, ph.) and a Rough-legged Hawk at Saskatchewan Landing PP, SK 27 May was a tardy migrant (Lev Frid, David Howe, Rosanne Dawson, ph.). A Barn Owl was found at an undisclosed location in Alberta, during an owl survey on 17 Apr. It was the second report of the species in the province in 2022 (fide James Fox). Also in southern Alberta were four Eastern Screech-Owls at three undisclosed locations throughout the period. A concentration of 30 Snowy Owls along 20 km of road near Meadows, MB 16 Apr was notable (Rudolf & José Koes). Burrowing Owl numbers were low in Alberta.
The Alberta tally of Lewis’s Woodpeckers was lower than in 2021, with birds observed at Longview 11 May (Brielle Reidlinger), Edmonton 14 May, a first for the city (Ryan Pimiskern, ph.), and Brooks 21 May (Judy Boyd). Out-of-range Red-headed Woodpeckers were at Val Marie, SK 25 May (Patrice Franche) and Whitebeech, SK 28 May (Brigette Lewis, ph.). A Red-breasted Sapsucker x Red-naped Sapsucker hybrid was at Calgary 10 Apr (Sylvia Farrant, m. ob., ph.).
Flycatchers through Buntings
A Western Wood-Pewee provided a birding highlight for a group of Nature Manitoba members at St. Ambroise, MB 14 May (m. ob., ph.). Cordilleran Flycatchers have now been found in the extreme southwest of Saskatchewan for a number of years; on 29 May one was reported at the West Benson Trail near Cypress Hills PP (David Bell, Liam Singh, ph., audio). A Loggerhead Shrike at Hecla PP, MB 14 May was well outside its current breeding range on the prairies (Michael Schrimpf, Emily Runnells, ph.). Two Western Bluebirds were at Hillcrest Mines, AB 27 Mar (Pat Lucas) and another two were at Priddis, AB 29 Mar–1 Apr (m. ob., ph.). A few Wood Thrushes were reported in Manitoba; farther out-of-range was one near Saskatoon 17 May (Phil Taylor, ph.). Three tardy Bohemian Waxwings lingered at Saskatoon until 8 May (Sharlene Toole). Similarly late were a Pine Grosbeak at La Salle, MB 15 May (Randy Bossuyt) and Common Redpolls at Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg 21 May (m. ob.). The unseasonably cold spring appeared to have delayed the departures of these birds. The Lesser Goldfinch first reported at Pincher Creek, AB in Feb was last seen 19 Mar (m. ob., ph.). A Song Sparrow at Regina 12 Mar had made it through the winter (Laurel Stang). A Green-tailed Towhee visited Regina 23–24 May, where it was seen by many (Alyson Melenchuk, m. ob., ph.). There were five earlier records of this species in the province, four of them in the first half of the 20th century. Reports of Spotted Towhee have increased in recent years in Manitoba; one was at Broomhill PWMA 11 May (Bob Curry, Glenda Slessor) and another at Gerald W. Malaher PWMA 21 May (Patrice France). Bullock’s Oriole was at long last officially added to the Manitoba list. Four birds were present: an immature male at Hazel Glen 9–11 May (Todd Ridd, Shane Strazza, m. ob., ph.) and adult males at Winnipeg 13 May (Roberta Rackal, ph.), Rosser 18–22 May (Melanie K., ph.), and Petersfield 18–21 May (Janis & Robert Berger, m. ob., ph.).
There were two reports of MacGillivray’s Warbler in Manitoba: 16 May at FortWhyte Alive, Winnipeg (April Stampe, m. ob., ph.), and 21 May at Southport (Gayle Loewen, ph.). Both birds may have been hybrids with Mourning Warbler or aberrant Mourning Warblers. Manitoba’s Ornithological Records Committee has not yet evaluated these sightings. A Hooded Warbler at Cana, SK 28–29 Apr was about the seventh for the province (Paula & Morley Maier, ph.). A Cape May Warbler at Churchill, MB 27 May was far north of its breeding range (Olivia Maillet, Andrew Brown, ph.), while a Northern Parula at Wascana Marsh 11–14 May was west of its breeding range (Gail Fennell, m.ob., ph.). Also rare was a Black-throated Blue Warbler at Calgary 30 May (Kathy Kowarchuk, ph.). Summer Tanagers were prominent, with Manitoba sightings at Brandon 9–14 May, Pembina Valley 18–21 May, Winnipeg 19 May, Gimli 26–27 May, and at Poplarfield late May, with Saskatchewan reports from Estevan 19–21 May and Regina 29 May (m. ob., ph.). In Manitoba Western Tanagers were noted at Winnipeg 10 May, St. Andrews 23 May, Arborg 26–28 May, plus undated May sightings at Paradise Village and Poplarfield (m. ob., ph.), while Saskatchewan reports came from Zealandia 25 Apr, Swift Current 8 May, and Tallman 14 May (m. ob., ph.). Black-headed Grosbeaks and Lazuli Buntings overshot during migration, resulting in many records of both species in central and northern Alberta (fide James Fox). A male Painted Bunting near Gladstone 28 May–1 Jun was the fourth confirmed for Manitoba (Carole Timmons, m. ob., ph.).
In October 2021 a Crested Caracara was described and photographed in the Turtle Mountain area of Manitoba. Unfortunately, the photographic evidence was lost, but the description sounded convincing. The sighting fits in with a series of records from Alberta and Saskatchewan that fall, which show a pattern of movement in a southeasterly direction by what is presumably all the same bird. The record has not yet been evaluated by the Manitoba Ornithological Records Committee, but if accepted it would be an addition to the provincial list.
Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 28 Mar 2023.