Thirteen species of birds were spotted in the Hay River area during the annual Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 15.
While that is a lower number of species than a year ago, Gary Vizniowski, the organizer for the Hay River count, says there is no reason for concern.
Vizniowski said poor weather on count day – cold and light snow – may have impacted the number of observed species by keeping spruce grouse and ruffed grouse out of sight.
“Usually we get them on the count,” he said. “And if it’s a nice sunny day, it really brings them out, which it was the previous year. This year, it was kind of miserable out. And nobody saw any spruce grouse or ruffed grouse.”
Vizniowski said spruce grouse and ruffed grouse are around.
“I saw one of each a day or so before the count when it was nicer out,” he noted.
Ten common redpolls were also spotted during count week, which is three days before and three days after count day.
Vizniowski said there are usually about 15 species of birds spotted in Hay River during the Christmas Bird Count, which is part of an international conservation initiative.
The total number of birds observed on count day was 564.
Vizniowski noted that no unusual or out-of-range species were counted.
However, he did spot 13 willow ptarmigan, which was the first time in almost two years that he saw the species in the area.
Eighteen species and 599 birds were spotted during the last count in December 2018.
About 10 people participated in the latest count by either watching their birdfeeders or travelling around the area.
The Christmas Bird Count must be held between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
The count in the Hay River area takes place within a circle 24 km in diameter centred on the communication towers south of the Hay River Regional Health Centre.
The Christmas Bird Count began in the United States in 1900 and now includes more than 2,500 locations throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Hay River’s first count was in 1977, and it has been held most years since.