by Lisa Bate 

Glacier Christmas Birdcount – Photo Credit: Diane Lundgren

Glacier National Park (GNP) held its annual Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 20, 2020. Twenty-nine participants contributed to this event by covering 10 different routes in Glacier, and 2 bird feeders in West Glacier. Participants spent the day counting all bird species and individuals detected. The weather started dismally with rain, light to moderate winds, and temperatures around 34 degrees. The afternoon, however, defied the forecast and the weather became partly sunny, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees. There was little snow, so nearly all observers walked. Observers on two routes either skied or snowshoed. Nearly all water was unfrozen.

Counts in 2020 were very similar to counts in 2019, when we recorded 453 birds of 29 different species. In 2020, we also recorded 29 species and only two additional birds for a total of 455 birds. Pine siskins were the most bird (n = 148) detected, followed by Common Goldeneyes (n = 102), and then Common Redpolls (n = 62). Interesting to note, was the location of the Common Mergansers. Almost all were on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, likely because it was mainly open water. During count week (3 days before and 3 days after count day), we also added Buffleheads, Mallards, and a Northern Hawk Owl, which many of us have been lucky enough to see these past weeks! Perhaps the best part of the Christmas Bird Count in 2020 was just getting out with friends and/or family, forgetting about COVID for a while, and enjoying the natural world. After the rains quit, it truly was a lovely day.

Glacier’s CBC started in 1962, and contributed to the 121st 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.