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Annual bird count low but species count remains average

Posted on January 5, 2016 by Maple Creek

By Megan Roth
The annual bird count and snow shoe hike took place in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park on Dec. 30, with 10 aviary enthusiasts in attendance.
This number is down just slightly from the previous year when 13 people came out to the park to count the birds and snow shoe the trails.
The one day count covered an area of 24 km in the centre block of the park.
During the count they saw 95 individual birds and 11 different species of birds while out on the trails.
This number is down from previous years, but Melody Nagel-Hisey, the Park Area Naturalist for Cypress Hills, says that doesn’t mean there aren’t birds out there.
“There were lots we didn’t see on count day that were spotted the day or two after, so they are out there and are counted in a different area,” Nagel-Hisey said.
The bird count for Saskatchewan takes place over a six week time frame starting Dec. 14, 2015 and ending Jan. 5, 2016, with each area choosing one day in that time to do their count.
The numbers counted will be registered in a book by Nature Saskatchewan called The Blue Jay.
Nagel-Hisey said that when doing these bird counts it is important to stick to the same paths and areas each year.
“You want to stay in the same area to get an accurate number of the birds out there,” she said.
The trail that is followed takes the group near to houses and other buildings, as many birds tend to be spotted more in those areas then in the trees.
While the number of bird sightings was down significantly from the year before Nagel-Hisey said that the species seen were avall very similar to past bird counts.
The year before 368 individual birds were seen with 11 different speies seen.
A new sighting on the count this year was a single golden-crowned kinglet, named for the small yellow stripe on its head.
“This is the first time we have seen one on our count. That isn’t to say they are unusual in this area, we just have to come across them on our chosen count day before,” Nagel-Hisey said.
During the snow shoe hike in the afternoon the group stopped by a small stream to try and find leopard frogs in the shallow waters.
The group did not see any frogs in the stream this year.
According to Nagel-Hisey, there was just enough snow to cover the ground and make everything look white.
“We didn’t really need the snow shoes, but some people still wore them for fun while others just hiked,” she said.
With very little snow in the park many of the major winter activities are not available right now, like the snowmobile trails, which won’t be open until there is at least 12 inches of snow on the ground.
The tobaggan hill is open, however. The hill was open over Christmas and New Years, with a tobagganing party taking place on New Years Day.
“We had enough snow to survive the Christmas holidays with all the families coming out,” said Nagel-Hisey.

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