by Lisa Bate

This year’s Christmas Bird Count in Glacier was fantastic! We had a number of rare birds, first-time birds, unusual birds for this time of the year, and some new high counts for species. It was also 25 degrees warmer than the morning before (minus 15° F) and we had light, fluffy snow, making it a great day for a winter outing with friends.

This year’s count was held on December 18, 2016. Twenty observers on 9 field routes and one feeder site (West Glacier) recorded 1003 birds of 37 species. This was 2.5 times more birds than last year’s count! The Glacier National Park Christmas Bird Count (CBC) started in 1962, contributing to the 117th year of the National Audubon Society’s CBC.

In the unusual-for-this-time of year arena, we had an American Robin and five Varied Thrushes. This was a new high count for Varied Thrushes, up from the previous record of two. Two Pacific Wrens were also observed. For new species on count day, we recorded a White-throated Sparrow at the feeder site along with a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

We had new high counts for Snow Buntings with 15 counted and Trumpeter Swans with 25 counted. Eight of the swans were cygnets. One team recorded a White-breasted Nuthatch, which is unusual anytime of the year here in Glacier; another team observed the rare Northern Hawk Owl.

Pine Siskins were the most abundant bird species detected with 420 individuals counted, followed by Common Goldeneyes at a count of 81. Count week (3 days before and 3 days after count day) yielded four additional species: Western Grebe, Northern Pygmy Owl, Black-billed Magpie, and a Merlin.

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 and diversity in Glacier during the early winter season!  Looking forward to our next outing!