Prairie Provinces: Summer 2023

Summer 2023: 1 Jun–31 Jul

Rudolf Koes

James Fox

Recommended citation:

Koes, R., and Fox, J. 2024. Prairie Provinces: Summer 2023. <> North American Birds.

Drought conditions persisted through much of the western and central parts of the region; in Saskatchewan, ranchers have been forced to cull their herds due to a lack of fodder or resorted to cutting withering cereal crops to feed their cattle. The forest fires that had ravaged much of the forested areas during spring continued through the summer and by the end of the period the total acreage burned in Canada was the highest-ever. There was no end in sight to this misery by August. Temperatures fluctuated, with June being the second warmest on record in Manitoba, while July on the other hand was the 15th coldest. While there were no mega rare first records in the region, Alberta recorded its third Black-throated Gray Warbler and owls made the news in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan hosted numbers of Dickcissels for the fourth year in a row.

Geese through Terns

Although small numbers of Snow Geese frequently summer in the southern Prairie Provinces, a tally of twenty-seven at Keho L., AB on 15 Jul was high (David Scott). A Wood Duck at Churchill, MB 13–14 Jun was a local rarity (m. ob.), as was a hybrid Eurasian x North American Green-winged Teal at the same location on 7 Jun. The latter may have been a Manitoba first (Andrew Brown, Olivia Maillet, ph.). A Long-tailed Duck at Calgary, AB from 5–10 Jun was a late migrant (Yousif Attia, m. ob., ph.). Another Churchill rarity was a Western Grebe on 15 June (Jay & Judy Anderson). A White-winged Dove at Valleyview on 4 Jul was a good find for Alberta  (Glenn Mitchell, ph.). Anna’s Hummingbird reports came from Mountain View, AB on 22 Jun (Nancy West) and Pincher Creek, AB on 5 Jul (Cornel van Ryk, ph.). Summer Whooping Crane reports came from Chaplin L., SK, with a single bird on 28 Jul (Eve Downey, Gill Holmes, ph.) and three at an undisclosed location on 31 Jul (Tyler Singer, ph.). Two Black-necked Stilts were found on 9 Jul at Whitewater L., MB, where the species has been irregular in the past few years (Robert Parsons, Jo Swartz). Farther west in the region the species is more common and rarely elicits comment. A Snowy Plover at West Reflex L, AB 28–30 Jul was a great find for the Prairie Provinces (Fisher Stephenson, ph.). A Red Phalarope at Wynyard, SK 26–27 Jul was likely a rare early fall migrant (Richard Waters, m. ob., ph.). Pomarine Jaegers are reported less-than-annually in Manitoba, making sightings of four on 6 Jun (Eagle-Eye Tours, Churchill Northern Studies Centre group—hereafter CNSC) and a single bird there on 7 Jun notable (CNSC). Sabine’s Gulls at Churchill on 4 and 14 Jul were late migrants (Olivia Maillet, Andrew Brown, ph.). A Short-billed Gull on 4 Jul was another Churchill rarity; possibly the same bird was seen on 14 Jul  (Andrew Brown, ph.). California Gulls were found breeding at Griswold Marshes, a new southern-most location in Manitoba, on 4 Jul (Rudolf Koes). A Great Black-backed Gull at Churchill on 10 Jun was a good find (Vicki St Germaine, ph.). Arctic Terns at Charlotte L on 2 Jun (m. ob., ph.) and at Wakamao L on 22 Jun (Emily Gorda, ph.) were rare in Alberta.

Pelicans through Woodpeckers

Ten American White Pelicans at Churchill on 24 Jun were well north of their breeding range (Andrew Brown, Anne Ausems, ph.). Rare or uncommon egrets and herons included the following: a Great Blue Heron at Churchill on 11 Jun (Kendra Bisbing), Great Egrets at Spruce Grove, AB, continuing from spring though July, and at Frank L from 28 Jun through the period (m. ob., ph.), at Middle Lake North, SK on 11 Jul (Gregory Frie) and at Last Mountain L, SK on 15 Jul (John Lundgren), a Snowy Egret in Manitoba’s Interlake on 1 Jul (Dawn Parkes, ph.) and another one at Pakowki L, AB on 16 and 19 Jul (Nurlan Issa, m. ob., ph.), up to six Cattle Egrets in the Plum Lakes, MB area mid-Jun (m. ob.) and two birds near Weyburn, SK from 27 Jun to 9 Jul (m. ob., ph.), a Green Heron in the Gimli, MB area from 17 Jul into Aug (m. ob., ph. and a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Portage la Prairie, MB on 20 Jul (Carrie Braden, ph.). White-faced Ibis were reported at numerous locations in the south of the region, including a flock of 60 birds at an undisclosed location in southern Saskatchewan in late Jul (Dallas Burnett, ph.). Both Western and Eastern Screech-Owls continue to be reported in Alberta, with apparently small stable populations over the past couple of years (m. ob., ph.). Another Eastern Screech-Owl was found at Cypress Hills PP, SK 1 Jul (Katelyn Luff). Northern Pygmy-Owl has been found regularly in northwestern Saskatchewan for the past several years; two adults and two juveniles were noted at Meadow Lake PP between 22 and 28 Jun (Wendy Erickson, m. ob., ph.). Lone Snowy Owls at Wildhorse, AB from 28 Jun to 4 Jul (m. ob., ph.) and at Beaverhill L, AB on 31 Jul (Ethan Denton) were much out-of-season. Two Lewis’s Woodpeckers continued from spring at Waterton NP, AB (m. ob., ph.), while a single bird was at Canmore, AB on 16 Jun (Sheila Serup). Also reported in Alberta were single Red-headed Woodpeckers at Cypress Hills PP on 1 Jun (Murray Shields, ph.), Wildhorse on 2 Jun (Marcus Miller), Camrose-Lloydminster on 10 Jun (Andy Ross, Gavin MacKinnon, m. ob.), Andrew on 14 Jun (Gerry & James Fox) and Indian Graves PP on 2 Jul (Kevin Brooks). A Red-naped Sapsucker at Mont Nebo, SK on 1 Jul was rare (Cathy Holtslander); it had apparently been reported previously. East of its breeding range was a Black-backed Woodpecker at St. Norbert, MB on 21 Jun (Andy Courcelles, m. ob., ph.).

Kingbirds through Thrushes

A Western Kingbird at Churchill 3–6 Jun was about the eighth for the area (Nelson Chubey, Rudolf Koes, CNSC). Between 17 and 20 Jul up to five Western (Cordilleran) Flycatchers were found at Cypress Hills PP, where the species has now been found for several years (m. ob.). A Black-billed Magpie was reported three times between 16 and 24 Jun at Churchill (Ben Winger, Andy Jones, ph.). A Pygmy Nuthatch at Rainy Ridge L on 19 Jul was a rarity for Alberta (Wilson Davidson), as was a Rock Wren that made its home at a limestone quarry near Oakview, MB from 2 Jun to at least 2 Jul (Garry Budyk, Deanna Dodgson, m. ob., ph.). A House Wren, about the third for Churchill, on 1 Jul was hundreds of km north of its breeding range (Olivia Maillet, Andrew Brown, ph., audio). Northern Mockingbird remains a rare species through the region, but singles were at five locations in Manitoba between 3 Jun and 22 Jul (m. ob.), one was at Blood Indian Park, AB on 5 Jun (Andy Ross, ph.) and one was at Wymark, SK on 8 Jun (Paul & Rhonda Langelaar, ph.). Two Eastern Bluebirds were in the Alberta part of Cypress Hills PP from 22 Jun to 22 Jul (Josiah Van Egmond, m. ob., ph.) and one female was paired with a male Mountain Bluebird at Bruderheim, AB on 1 Jul (m. ob., ph.). Up to three Wood Thrushes were heard singing in the Whitemouth L area of Manitoba for much of the summer; this was at least the fourth year in-a-row the species has been reported there (m. ob.). A Varied Thrush at Churchill on 18 Jun was much out-of-range (Ben Winger, Andy Jones), while two out-of-season individuals were reported at Saskatoon, SK on 24 Jul (Susan Shaw).

Crossbills through Dickcissel

Both Red and White-winged crossbills started to appear in the south during the summer—more on this in the fall report. A Lesser Goldfinch was reported south of Beaver Mines, AB on 5 Jun (Carey Bergman, ph.). A Smith’s Longspur at Moose Jaw, SK on 14 Jun was unexpected at the time of year (Evan Larson, ph.). A Field Sparrow was audio-recorded at Beaverhill L on 11 Jun (Jon Van Arragon), while another bird at Whitemouth Lake Road from 10 Jun to 3 Jul was seen by many (Ray Méthot, Cam Nikkel, m. ob.). A Yellow-breasted Chat was far north of its limited Alberta breeding range at Edmonton on 5 Jun (Percy Zalasky). Rare warbler records were as follows: Three Golden-winged Warblers at Melfort, SK on 8 Jun (Vicki St. Germaine) and one at Red Earth, SK on 2 Jul (John Lundgren, ph.), up to three Northern Parulas at Cypress Hills PP, SK from 8 Jun to 21 Jul (m. ob., ph.) and one bird at Waterton on 8 Jun (Gerry & James Fox), plus a Black-throated Gray Warbler at One-Four, AB on 4 Jun (Nathan Hood, ph.). Equally rare were a Summer Tanager at Bruderheim 15–20 Jul (David Grinevitch, m. ob., ph.) and male Indigo Buntings at St. Albert, AB on 14 Jun (Dianne Commandeur-Hajek, ph.) and at Medicine Hat, AB on 21 Jul (Adam Turnbull, ph.). Dickcissels were once again prominent in southern Manitoba, with a few spilling over into extreme southeastern Saskatchewan. One field near Whitemouth, MB held birds for the fourth year in-a-row (m. ob., ph.).

Erratum: The caption of photo 11 in the Prairie Provinces spring 2023 report should read as follows: Lesser Goldfinch is one of the species that is being seen more frequently in recent years in the western part of the region than in previous decades. This bird was at Calgary, Alberta on 14 Apr 2023. Photo @ Nathan Reinhardt.

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 24 Apr 2024.

Photos–Prairie Provinces: Summer 2023

This hybrid Eurasian Green-winged Teal x North American Green-winged Teal at Churchill, Manitoba on 7 Jun 2023 may well have been a first for the province. Photo @ Andrew Brown.

Although White-winged Dove has occurred in the prairie provinces in increasing numbers during the past few decades, the species remains very rare. This bird was at Valleyview, Alberta on 4 Jul 2023. Photo @ Glenn Mitchell.

This Snowy Plover at West Reflex Lake, Alberta on 28 Jul 2023 was a rare find for the prairie provinces. Photo @ Fisher Stephenson.

This molting Red Phalarope at Wynyard, Saskatchewan on 27 Jul was an early fall migrant. The species is rare in the province at any time of year. Photo @ Sharlane Toole.

Short-billed Gulls occasionally wander into northern Manitoba, as did this bird at Churchill on 4 Jul 2023. It, or another bird, was seen on 14 Jul 2023. Photo @ Andrew Brown.

Snowy Egret is one of the rarest herons in the prairie provinces. This bird was at Pakowki Lake, Alberta from 16 (here) to 19 Jul 2023. Photo @ Nurlan Issa.

Totally unexpected in summer was this Snowy Owl at Wildhorse, Alberta on 29 Jun 2023. Photo @ Trevor Churchill.

This Western Kingbird spent from 5 (here 6) to 7 Jun 2023 at a dried basin in the harbour of Churchill, Manitoba. It represented the eighth record for the Churchill area. Photo @ Tom Irving.

This House Wren at Churchill, Manitoba on 1 Jul 2023 was the third for the area, at least 500 km north of its breeding range. Photo @ Andrew Brown.

Eastern Bluebirds are rare in Alberta and often have difficulty finding a mate. This female at Bruderheim on 1 Jul 2023 made the best of the situation by pairing with a male Mountain Bluebird. Photo @ Gerry Fox.

A scarce migrant in Saskatchewan, this Smith’s Longspur at Moose Jaw on 14 Jun 2023 was unexpectedly late in the spring. Photo @ Evan Larson.

Although there are no confirmed breeding records for Golden-winged Warbler in Saskatchewan, territorial males are found almost annually in the extreme east of the province. This male was at Red Earth on 2 Jul 2023. Photo @ John Lundgren.

This Black-throated Gray Warbler at OneFour, Alberta on 4 Jun 2023 was only the third for the province. Photo @ Nathan Hood.

This male Summer Tanager at Bruderheim, Alberta, attracted many birders. Seen here on the day of its discovery, 15 Jul 2023, it was last reported on 20 Jul. Photo @ Gerry Fox.

In Canada the breeding range of Indigo Bunting reaches as far west as eastern Saskatchewan. Sightings such as this male at St. Albert, Alberta on 14 Jun 2023 remain noteworthy. Photo @ Dianne Commandeur-Hajek.

Alberta’s second Indigo Bunting of summer 2023 was this bird at Medicine Hat on 21 Jul. Photo @ Adam Turnbull.