The findings are in for Medicine Hat’s 40th annual Christmas Bird Count. Through the count a total of 25,210 birds were observed – a 27 per cent increase from 2020 – however only 45 species were seen, lower than previous years.
“It is something to note going forward,” park interpreter Marty Drut told the News. “If it happens two, three, four, five years in a row, then you start thinking maybe something else is going on and then you have to see is this something that’s happening here in Medicine Hat or is it just that they go elsewhere … You have to be really careful about using one year as a guidepost.”
As well as a decrease in the number of species observed, there was a decrease in several specific species, such as rock doves, grey partridges and American tree sparrows. Rock doves hit their lowest numbers yet this year with only 270 observed. Grey partridges and American tree sparrows were not observed at all during this count.
“It was a little bit strange that we didn’t see a couple of the species this year,” said Drut. “The American tree sparrow is a regular winter visitor (but) we didn’t see any this count and there haven’t been sightings of them this winter outside of the count either. So, that’s an unusual thing we would want to keep track of going forward.”
Alternatively, several species increased in numbers, most notably the Northern flicker, which reached a new high at 169 observed.
Once again, Canada geese and mallards were the most observed species during the count.
Overall, Drut said this year’s count was a success as it helped provide North American scientists with data about birds and their patterns. Drut — on behalf of the Medicine Hat Interpretive Program and the Society of Grasslands Naturalists which co-sponsored the count – thanked participants for their contributions. He also encouraged Hatters who are interested to get involved in next year’s counts or contribute to initiatives like Citizen Science which run throughout the year.
“A lot of these (initiatives) rely on people who have some expertise with identifying birds to count them because scientists can’t be everywhere. They use that data to interpret things that are happening on local and international scales,” he said.
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News