This year’s 2015 Tagish Christmas Bird Count was yet another success. It took place on December 20th, and saw 14 field birders and 13 feeder watchers participate. We had great weather; it was warm (at least compared to previous years)with temperatures ranging between -11 and -18oC, and calm, with only a partially cloudy sky and fantastic landscape views off Tagish bridge. 10 enthusiastic field birders met me at Tagish bridge from as near as Tagish and Carcross to as far as Whitehorse. As in previous years, two field birders, John Teertstra and Dan Kemble (the Carcross CBC coordinator) went up nearby Jubilee Mountain on a search for ptarmigan. This year they were skunked on the ptarmi but scored the count’s only Great Horned Owl. Whitehorse birders Cameron Eckert and Pam Sinclair were extremely fortunate to spot the famous Tagish Road Great Gray Owl, while Tagish birders counted an amazing 27 Common Mergansers and 29 Common Goldeneye along the river. Ulrich Trachsel and I were lucky to be in the right spot at the right time when two Lapland Longspurs flew low overhead in clear sight, issuing a rattling call. This species has had no previous winter records in the Yukon, so this was certainly a count highlight. California Beach produced 2 Northern Goshawks which were seen by field birders flying along the river mouth. Feeder watchers in Tagish experienced low numbers of birds overall on count day, similarly to the field birders (everyone noted diversity, but low numbers). These low numbers were observed from the beginning of feeder season, but the explanation remains unknown. Good numbers of Black-capped (23) and Mountain Chickadees (12) were reported, including 7 Mountain Chickadees at the Heynen’s feeder. Tagish and Carcross are both known for being hotspots within the Yukon for the highly localized Mountain Chickadee. Good numbers of Pine Grosbeaks were seen, but not a single crossbill of either species was reported at feeders or in the field. Yukon Bird Club president Cameron Eckert noted in an interview recently that crossbills and redpolls were both missing from most Christmas Bird Counts across the territory this year, and seem to be wintering elsewhere. It will be interesting to see what these species do through the remainder of the winter.
Overall, the Christmas Bird Count in Tagish tallied 19 species in total and was a great success. Thank you to everyone who participated this year, and to those who have in past years but were unable to do it this year. Happy New Year to all!
Here is the species list:
Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Ruffed Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Great Gray Owl, Common Raven, Gray Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll, Lapland Longspur, and Dark-eyed Junco.
= 19 species.