by Lisa Bate

Glacier National Park (GNP) held its annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Sunday, December 15, 2019. Twenty-nine participants contributed to this event by covering 10 different routes in Glacier, and 1 bird feeder in West Glacier. Participants spent the day counting all bird species and individuals detected. The weather was unusually mild for a winter bird count in Glacier with temperatures hovering around freezing, with little to no wind, and such little snow that observers walked, rather than skied, most routes. Nearly all water was open (not frozen).

Routes in 2019 were all very, very quiet compared to other years. We only detected 453 birds of 29 different species. This was a fifth the number of birds detected in 2018 when we had all the waxwings. Black-capped Chickadees and Common Goldeneyes were the most abundant species (n = 59 each). This was followed by Common Mergansers and Canada Geese.

Our most notable species were two Red-necked Grebes on Lake McDonald and three Black-backed Woodpeckers and one Merlin on the McGee Meadow Loop. Two additional species were detected during count week (3 days before and 3 days after count day): Ruffed Grouse and Blue Jay. The most memorable photo of the year was not even of a bird, but of mountain lion tracks perfectly preserved in snow nearly the entire length of John’s Lake Loop.

Glacier’s CBC started in 1962, and contributed to the 120th year of the National Audubon Society’s CBC. Thanks to all participants for contributing their expertise, time, and energy for this annual event. Your efforts are invaluable in tracking long-term changes in species abundance, diversity, and range changes, in Glacier and throughout North America.