Mount Lorette Raptor Watch

The Mt. Lorette Raptor Count has now begun. Welcome to another exciting year of watching the birds migrate! We most enjoy having visitors to the site and assisting in the sightings. First official day of counting began on 18th February 2007. Follow the daily movement of the raptors on this blog updated daily by Peter Sherrington.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

DAY 83 (May 16) The last day of the count started with 100% St cloud cover and 2C, with the cloud thinning then breaking after 0900 producing a mainly sunny day with the temperature rising to a season-high 22C. Winds were mainly SSW-SW occasionally gusting to 30 km/h in the afternoon. Not surprisingly raptor movement was slow despite the first migrant, a subadult BAEA, moving north at 0629, and only three more migrants were recorded with the last bird of the season being a juvenile SSHA at 1408. We had several sightings of resident raptors, however, the highlight being an adult NOGO unsuccessfully hunting Northern Rough-winged Swallows just north of the site in the afternoon and then half an hour later being vigorously mobbed itself by a MERL. No new species of bird arrived, but a very pleasant day with several members and friends visiting the site had an end of school feeling and was capped by a large male Black Bear moving southwards across the ski slopes to the west at 1709. Like the previous months, the total raptor count in May was well below average (88 birds, -40%) despite the time spent in the field being close to average. The GOEA total of 24 was 61% below average, while the 6 BAEA were 38% below average, and only NOGO (5) and RTHA (18) were significantly above average. Overall the GOEA count of 2141 (-35.2%) was the lowest ever, 320 lower than the previous low count in 1997, and continues a diminishing trend that started in 1996. The BAEA total of 212 was close to average (-3.9%), while RTHA was 55.8% above average and the highest spring count since 1999. The 20 MERL counted (+104%) was the highest total ever, as was the total of 4 TUVU (+522%), with 7 of the 13 birds counted since 1993 occurring in the last three years. Over the 83 days of the count we tallied a total of 17,560 birds of 130 species, and had the pleasure of welcoming 479 visitors to the site. We will now conduct our principal complete counts at the South Livingstone site both in the spring and fall, but plan a 30-day count at Mount Lorette this fall starting around September 30. Consult our website for details and we hope to see you this coming fall at one of both of the sites. (14 hours: 1019) BAEA 1 (212), SSHA 1 (62), RTHA 1 (70), GOEA 1 (2141), TOTAL 4 (2621)

FINAL COUNT (with variance from 1993-2006 average)

DAYS 83 (+ 4.1%)
HOURS 1019 (+19.5%)

OSPREY (OSPR) 8 (-25%)
BALD EAGLE (BAEA) 212 (-3.9%)
COOPER’S HAWK (COHA) 18 (-2.7%)
Accipiter sp. (UA) 8
RED-TAILED HAWK (RTHA) 70 (+55.8%)
GOLDEN EAGLE (GOEA) 2141 (-35.2%)
MERLIN (MERL) 20 (+103%)
GYRFALCON 3 (+100%)
Falco sp. (UF) 1
Unidentified raptor (UU) 6

TOTAL 2621 (-30.56%)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

DAY 82 (May 15) Cloudless skies produced a temperature of -2C at 0600 and they persisted until 1100 when 10-50% Cu cloud developed most of the rest of the day. The temperature rose to 18.5C with almost continuous sunshine, with variable light winds at valley level and light to moderate NW winds aloft. Only one migrant raptor was seen: a female AMKE at 1744 and it appears the migration is essentially over. Non-raptor species continue to arrive with 4 singing Yellow Warblers [#127] along the river and at the Ponds, where I also heard 2 Soras [#128] calling and Common Yellowthroats singing for the first time. A Blue Jay [#129] calling in the northern riparian area was just the 5th spring record for the area (they are much more common in the fall) and at 1418 a Tennessee Warbler [#130] was singing south of the site which is a species we don’t often record before the spring raptor count ends. Two Common Ravens were fishing at Lorette Ponds at 0600 and caught 3 good sized fish in about 5 minutes despite having to drive off an adult BAEA that was also trying to fish there. Grey Jays have become conspicuous again after almost having disappeared for about 3-4 weeks and today I saw the reason why: the first newly fledged juvenile bird accompanying an adult just south of the site. (14.17 hours: 1005) AMKE 1 (9) TOTAL 1 (2617)

Monday, May 14, 2007

DAY 81 (May 14) The 100% cloud cover at the start soon broke up, but redeveloped between 1000 and 1300 with light rain between 1015 and 1045. Although there were showers in the area until mid afternoon, this was the only rain that fell on me. The temperature rose to 14C from a low of 1C, winds were variable and light with only occasional gusts to 20 km/h from the SW in the afternoon, and the afternoon Cu cloud cover was ideal for observation. All 5 of the migrant raptors moved between 1710 and 1836 when the only GOEA of the day, a subadult, moved to the NW. At 1715 the first Swainson’s Hawk, of the season [#125], an adult dark morph, glided north from the Fisher Range giving us the 11th spring record for the species. The 65 bird species recorded was a new season high and included 7 other first occurrences. Three Northern Waterthrushes [#119] were singing at the Ponds in the morning, where a male Rufous Hummingbird [#120] was spectacularly displaying, while a couple of Least Flycatchers [#121] sang in the aspens to the NW. A pair of Cinnamon Teal [#122] at the northern Ponds was only the 8th spring record for the species and all but one of the sightings has involved a pair of birds. The highlight of the day (and probably of the season) was a Field Sparrow feeding with a flock of Chipping Sparrows under the Stoney Trail power lines 300 m N of Lorette Creek. I observed the bird for about 5 minutes as close as 4 m and made a full description. The bird has been hypothetical for the area since Jack Steeves described one in April 1995, but as it had not been previously recorded in the province Jack felt that his description, although good, was not definitive. The species was seen and confirmed the following year along the Sibbold Trail about 20 km to the NE of our site, and in the light of that and today’s record we should reassess his record as a possible provincial first. At 1508 I flushed a Sprague’s Pipit [#124] from the Hay Meadow for our 4th overall and 1st spring record, and another flock of Chipping Sparrows in the meadow included a Clay-coloured Sparrow [#126] at 1818. Add to these our first pure “Yellow-shafted” Flicker of the season, an adult Northern Saw-whet Owl perched on a snag at the Ponds and the first singing Northern Pygmy-Owl since March 20 and it made for a reasonably good day despite the dwindling of the raptor migration. (13.5 hours: 990.8) SSHA 2 (61), COHA 1 (18), SWHA 1 (1), GOEA 1 (2140) TOTAL 5 (2616)

May 13 (Cliff Hansen) Rain dwindled to very light rain after 0915 and stopped for a couple of hours before steady rain resumed for the rest of the day after 1400. All ridges were obscured all day, and winds were from the SE to NE up to 10 km/h with the temperature steady at 4C. Raptor observation was not possible and a general survey over 8.25 hours produced only 35 species of bird, with a single Western Meadowlark NW of the ponds being of note. A single Muskrat at the Mount Allan Viewpoint pond was the first for the year. NO OBSERVATION

Sunday, May 13, 2007

DAY 80 (May 12) (Bill Wilson) Temperatures ranged from -3C up to 19C, with cloud increasing from 0% initially to 100% later in the day and SW to W winds 5-10 gusting 20 km/h. Despite the long day only 2 migrants were recorded: a juvenile GOEA at 1248 and a subadult GOEA at 1643, together with 5 sightings of non-migratory BAEA and an adult male Richardson’s MERL at the site. It’s now looking increasingly likely that the raptor migration is essentially over for this spring and I now plan to finish the count on Wednesday May 16. Bill recorded no new species among the 53 he tallied, but a young Black Bear near the site reported by a visitor was the first for the year. Next Wednesday will also be the last day of season-long counts at the Lorette site for the foreseeable future as today the RMERF Board endorsed my recommendation that the principal count site be moved to South Livingstone for both spring and fall counts starting this fall. Barbara and I are presently starting the process of relocating to the eastern Crowsnest Pass area which we intend to complete this summer. RMERF plans to do a 30-day count at Mount Lorette this coming fall, similar to last year’s effort, depending on the availability of observers, and Cliff has agreed to act as coordinator for the project. (15.17 hours: 977.3) GOEA 2 (2139) TOTAL 2 (2611)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

DAY 79 (May 11) The day started as yesterday with a cloudless sky and -3C, but unlike yesterday Cu cloud only developed after 1300 and never exceeded 10% making observation very challenging. Winds were moderate to strong SW to SSW and the temperature rose to 18C. The only migrant raptor seen was a subadult BAEA that went north at 1847: it was a long wait! Other bird species continue to arrive, however, including the first Warbling Vireos [#116], mainly singing in the aspens near Lorette Creek, one day earlier than average, and a single Vesper Sparrow [#117] in the Hay Meadow, a species that is of less than annual occurrence at the site. The highlight of the day, however, came at 1320 when an American Bittern [#118] flew sedately up the river from the north and landed in a backwater just south of the site. This is just the second record for the area of a bird that is extremely rare in the mountains, our first being one I found at the Ponds on April 1, 2003. Another unusual bird was a White-crowned sparrow of the black-lored race Z.l.oriantha that was an overshoot from southern Alberta or farther south and is only rarely recorded at the site. During the previous few days I had recorded a few birds of the white-lored gambelii race moving farther north, but the great preponderance of birds seen in the area have grey lores and appear to be intergrades between the two races. The migratory flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers that have been so prominent during the last 10 days have moved on, and all birds recorded today were territorial. The Say’s Phoebe that spent seven consecutive days in the Hay Meadow has also moved on, and three Great blue Herons appear to be sitting eggs at the heronry. (14 hours: 962.1) BAEA 1 (211) TOTAL 1 (2609)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

DAY 78 (May 10) Cloudless skies and calm conditions allowed the temperature to fall to -3C at 0615, but a generally sunny day with light variable lower winds and moderate to light SSW upper winds produced a high of 16C. Varying amounts of Cu and Ci cloud gave a splendid background allowing detection of exceptionally high soaring birds in mid-afternoon. Raptor movement was again slow but steady and typical for this late in the season, and was again dominated by juvenile Red-tailed Hawks, most of which showed signs of moult in the wings and tail. New bird species for the day were a singing Dusky Flycatcher [#112] and 2 Spotted Sandpipers [# 114], 2 days earlier than average, and two rare birds for the area. At 1119 a Lewis’ Woodpecker [#113] flew low over the site towards the south giving just the third record for the area, the previous being May 22 1993 and May 1 1999. At 1499 it reappeared at the site and flew north to perch in an aspen in the Hay Meadow, and as I watched it a pair of Common Grackles [#115] flew from the ENE and perched briefly in an aspen stand adjacent to the one in which the woodpecker was perched, before flying off to the north. This is only the second record for the area, the first being on May 9, 1999. I heard Hermit Thrush and White-crowned Sparrows in song for the first time, and Townsend’s Warblers are now common singing in the old-growth spruce areas. The first proven breeding success of the year was a pair of Canada Geese with 3 goslings on the river. At 0700 I was greeted at the site by a herd of 56 Elk which moved off to the north, and at 1340 yesterday’s Grizzly Bear was foraging for roots about 50 m east of the site. It was another entertaining day. (14.17 hours: 948.1) OSPR 2 (8), BAEA 1 (210), NOGO 2 (27), RTHA 6 (69), GOEA 2 (2137) TOTAL 13 (2608)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

DAY 77 (May 9) Large puddles on the trail to the site testified to the heavy rain associated with the thunderstorm that developed just after I left yesterday evening, but today was sunny all day with 5-60% Cu cloud, temperatures from 6C to 14C and generally only moderate SW winds. At 1645 the lower winds changed abruptly to the north, although the upper flow remained SSW. There was no raptor movement in the morning, but with the upper winds diminishing birds sporadically migrated between 1250 and 1845. Highlights were our 4th TUVU (a juvenile) soaring above the middle of the valley being harried (appropriately!) by a female NOHA, and our first Broad-winged Hawk [#111] receiving similar attention from 2 juvenile SSHA as they drifted north above the valley. All 5 RTHA were juveniles, and the MERL was an adult male richardsoni that spent around 10 minutes bathing and preening in the river before flying off. The total bird species count for the day was a season high 64, and included 7 more new species. Single male Common Yellowthroat [#104] and Wilson’s Warbler [#105] were at the Ponds but not yet singing, where I also found a recently dead Mourning Dove [#106] below the power lines, that may have been electrocuted in last nights thunderstorm. Two visiting birdwatchers from Calgary, Bernard and Terese Goulet, reported a singing Cassin’s Vireo [#107] at the trailhead, and a Hermit Thrush [#108] south of the site, and after they had joined me there a male Western Tanager [ #109] flew in and perched above us. In the early afternoon I found 2 female Brewer’s Blackbirds [#110] in the meadow. As I arrived at the Stoney Trailhead early in the morning, the first Grizzly Bear of the season, a probable adult male, was already there, and made its way north and spent some time near the site in the Hay Meadow. He was our 23rd mammal species of the season. (14 hours: 933.9) TUVU 1 (4), BAEA 2 (209), NOHA 1 (6), SSHA 3 (59), BWHA 1 (1), RTHA 5 (63), GOEA 1 (2135), MERL 1 (20) TOTAL 15 (2595)