Prairie Provinces: Summer 2020

Summer 2020: 1 Jun–31 Jul

Rudolf Koes

James Fox

Recommended citation:

Koes, R.F., and J. Fox. 2021. Summer 2020: Prairie Provinces. <> North American Birds.

Following the driest spring on record in Alberta, most of the province, except for the far northwest, experienced a very wet summer. In July it rained on 21 of 31 days in Edmonton, while a massive hailstorm in Calgary on 13 June created the fourth-most costly natural disaster ever in Canada. Manitoba also had a dry spring and precipitation remained at below-normal levels during the summer in Manitoba. Occasional downpours, however, did provide adequate amounts for crops to flourish. The highlight of the season was the discovery of a pair of breeding Cordilleran Flycatchers in southwest Saskatchewan. Many bird-related activities were severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with Breeding Bird Surveys being cancelled outright, group birding outings scrapped and Breeding Bird Atlas fieldwork in Saskatchewan, especially in northern regions, being curtailed.


Colyn Blyth, Logan Bradley, Garry Budyk, Denise Chambers, Ken De Smet, Brian Elder, Elena Farries, Paul Fieldhouse, Gerry Fox, James Fox, Matt Gasner, Maureen Hills-Urbat, Robert Johanson, Richard Klauke (RKl), Rudolf Koes (RKo), Annie McLeod, Dawn Parkes, Robert Parsons, John Peetsma, Tim Poole, David Raitt, Gillian Richards, Cody Roy, Michelle Schreder, Rick Scott (RSc), Stan Shadick, Colleen Smith, George Smith, Richard Staniforth (RSt), Vicki St. Germaine, James Telford, Theo Vivensang, Andreas Vogt, Asher Warkentin, Ray Wershler.


PP (Provincial Park), WMA (Wildlife Management Area)

Geese through Woodpeckers

Although Snow Geese frequently summer in small numbers in southern Manitoba, a tally of 56 at Whitewater Lake WMA 29 Jul was unusually high (GB, RKo). Manitoba hosted two White-winged Doves: one at Portage la Prairie 1–4 Jun (ph. CR, m.ob.) and one 28 Jun at Hillside Beach (ph. AV). Common Poorwill reaches its eastern breeding range limit in Canada in the Cypress Hills, SK area, where two birds were audio-recorded on 3 Jul (AM). Four Chimney Swifts were reported at Estevan, SK, near the western edge of the breeding range, on 25 Jul (VS). A Black-chinned Hummingbird near Pincher Creek, AB 31 Jul was east of its usual Rocky Mountain range (ph. AW). A Whooping Crane at Whitewater Lake 26 Jul may have been the same bird reported in spring 2020; it remained into fall (ph. JP). Whitewater Lake is also the only location in the province where Piping Plover has occurred with any regularity in recent years. After an initial sighting in mid-May 2020, two pairs were noted in Jun (CB, GR, TP) and one bird was still present 27 Jul (RP). Snowy Plover is a rare visitor to alkaline lakes in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. A pair was found in central Alberta during the summer (ph., anon.) and at Chaplin Lake, SK 18 Jul (ph. AM). Alberta’s 10th Wandering Tattler was present at Grande Prairie 26–27 Jun (ph. RSc). Single Parasitic Jaegers were at Clearwater PP, MB 7 Jun (DR) and at Brooks, AB 30 Jun (JF, GF), while a Long-tailed Jaeger was at Dinosaur PP, AB 27 Jun (ph. TV). Also at Clearwater PP was a Sabine’s Gull 11 Jun (ph. DR). An Arctic Tern lingered at Cattleland Slough, AB from 17 Jun to 16 Jul (ph., m.ob.). Alberta Great Egret sightings came from Frank Lake (up to three birds), Langdon and Hastings Lake (ph., m.ob.). There were two unconfirmed, but plausible, sightings of Mississippi Kite in Winnipeg, MB on 4 June (MG, KD), plus one on 21 Jul.  A Golden Eagle at Winnipeg 26 Jun was much out of season (RKo). Four Red-headed Woodpeckers between 1 and 12 June in Alberta provided a well-above average number of reports for the province. Singles were at Calgary, Kananaskis, Rocky Mountain House and one unspecified location in southern Alberta (m.ob).


Nanton, AB hosted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 20 Jun (ph. GS, CS). Canada’s first confirmed breeding of Cordilleran Flycatcher occurred at Battle Creek Road in Cypress Hills PP where a pair was discovered on 4 Jul (ph. JT, EF) and the nest with young was found on 10 Jul (m.ob.). The birds were photographed and audio-recorded by several observers and last reported 23 Jul (ph. MS). However, the possibility that the birds were hybrids between Cordilleran x Pacific-slope Flycatchers has not been discounted, according to some observers. Since Pacific Wren was split from Winter Wren, the species has been reported from the Cypress Hills in extreme southwestern Saskatchewan with some regularity. This summer one was noted there on 20 Jul (RKl). Townsend’s Solitaires, rare but annual in Manitoba, are typically found from late fall to spring, so a bird at Patricia Beach PP 11 Jun was highly unexpected (ph. PF). A Wood Thrush at Spruce Siding Road, MB, first noted on 31 May, was present until at least 12 Jun (m.ob.). Northern Mockingbirds are annual, but rare, in the Prairie Provinces. Lone birds were at OneFour, AB 22 Jun (LB) and in the Griswold, MB area late Jul (ph. JP). Red Crossbills were prominent in southern Manitoba, albeit in small parties (m.ob.). A Northern Parula, well west of the known breeding range in Canada, was at Calgary, AB 23–24 Jun (ph. RW, BE). A Scarlet Tanager at Cochrane, AB 1 Jun was a good find (ph. MH), as was an immature male Summer Tanager at Birds Hill PP, MB 21 Jun (RSt). The vicinity of Lyleton, MB has become a reliable area for Lazuli Bunting in recent years; at least one bird was present 10 Jun (RKo). Rare in Alberta was an Indigo Bunting at Hinton 2–3 Jun (ph. DC). A major incursion of Dickcissels took place in southern Manitoba, with the first bird being noted at St. Clements on 20 June (DP). Subsequent reports through July came from Elma, Lyleton, Morden, Neubergthal, St. Norbert and especially the Whitemouth area (ph., m.obs.).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 29 Jul 2021.

Photos–Prairie Provinces: Summer 2020

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