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Bird counts completed

The results of several Christmas bird counts held in the area have been tabulated in what coordinator Ron Martin, Minot, describes as “about average.” There were some exceptions however.

“We had an invasion of white-winged crossbills, finding them in lots of places, probably in record numbers on a couple of counts,” said Martin.

Avid birders and volunteers conducted the annual Christmas bird counts at Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, Minot, Garrison Dam and Denbigh. The white-winged crossbills were spotted in big numbers during the Minot and Garrison Dam counts.

“They occasionally erupt from the north, especially if there’s a shortage of cones on spruce trees,” explained Martin. “If that happens they’ll move down earlier.”

Another species that caught Martin’s attention because of increased numbers was rough-legged hawks, a bird that lives in the far north but winters as far south as the Texas panhandle.

“That’s a bird that’s usually gone by the end of December but there’s quite a number of them in the northern part of the state,” said Martin. “It could be related to our nice weather but it is a little unusual.”

As for other species, it was very much an average year said Martin. Minot’s count included 39 species, Garrison Dam 55, Upper Souris NWR 33 and Denbigh 33.

Sherry Leslie, Minot, has participated in bird counts for several years. Her most interesting find was a Harris sparrow that was known to be wintering in the Meadowbrook area. Additionally, said Leslie, “pine siskins are the bird of the year with lots of them.”

“Another bird up in numbers a bit is purple finches. That’s kind of unusual. They’ve been here all winter if you want to call this winter,” remarked Leslie. “They sing so beautifully.”

The on-going trend, overall, of fewer bird numbers than in the past was evident too.

“It’s the same old story,” said Leslie. “The numbers are down.”

Martin noted that the number of birds visiting feeders and residing in the city is in sharp contrast to what is being seen elsewhere.

“There’s just not a lot of open country birds out there, been kind of slow,” said Martin. “It’s been that way for a while.”

One bird whose numbers have been steady is turkeys, with 341 of them tabulated in the Minot count. Most of those, said Martin, were in the Trestle Valley area with “lots around the edges of town too.”

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