Mount Lorette and Vicki Ridge September 20

With notes from the reconnaissance counts at Beaver Mines and


Introduction This is the 26th consecutive year that RMERF has conducted at least one fall count in the Front Ranges of the Alberta Rocky Mountains. In 1992 an extensive reconnaissance count of 33 days was made at Mount Lorette that produced 2661 migrant raptors of which 2044 were Golden Eagles and demonstrated that the Alberta Front Ranges were a significant flyway for the species. Between 1993 and 2005 full-season counts of 75-101 days were conducted there with the exceptions of 1997 when a full count was conducted at Plateau Mountain about 90 km to the SSE and 2002 when circumstances limited observations at Mount Lorette to only 14 days.

From 2006 to 2009 the principal observation site moved to the Piitaistakis-South Livingstone ridge, which is the southern culmination of the Alberta Front Ranges, near the Crowsnest Pass during which time daily comparative counts of between 40 and 45 days were conducted at Mount Lorette coinciding with the main movement of Golden Eagles. In 2010 Mount Lorette again became the principal observation site with counts conducted over a standard period of September 20 to November 15. This season Cliff Hansen is again organizing the count and if you are interested in visiting the site or volunteering as an assistant (no previous experience needed: just good eyes, enthusiasm and a pair of binoculars) or as an Observer please contact Cliff at 403-673-2422.

Peter Sherrington will also be conducting a count on Vicki Ridge located 4.5 km WNW of the Hamlet of Beaver Mines in SW Alberta, and Vance Mattson will again be watching at his Steeples site which is located on the east side of the Kootenay Valley (Rocky Mountain Trench) 25 km NE of Cranbrook, British Columbia. Information on all the RMERF sites and reports of previous years’ spring and fall counts may be found on our website


Wednesday, September 20 [Day 1] (Joel Duncan) 0800-1900 The starting temperature was 5C, the high 8C at 1700 and it was 7C on departure. Ground winds were generally light S to W that gusted to 20 km/h around 1400, while ridge winds were moderate SW to 1600, after which they were moderate to strong: at 1900 the upper winds appeared to change to NW. Cloud cover was 100% cumulus and altostratus to 1600 when it briefly reduced to 80% before steadily increasing again to 100% by 1900. Apart from three one-hour periods when it was 20% obscured, the eastern route was clear all day; the west, however, was initially 80% obscured then 60% obscured from 0900 to 1400 and 80% to 1600 which then steadily reduced to 20% by 1900. No migrant raptors were seen but a family group of Red-tailed Hawks near Hummingbird Plume Hill comprised light and dark morph adults and a dark morph juvenile. A resident adult Golden Eagle was also seen over the Fisher Range. Other bird species were scarce for the time of year and comprised 1 Belted Kingfisher, 2 Northern Flickers, 2 Grey Jays, 1 Black-billed Magpie, 17 Common Ravens, 4 Mountain Bluebirds, 6 American Robins, 5 American Pipits and 1 Savannah Sparrow.


11 hours TOTAL 0



Vicki Ridge (Peter Sherrington) 0900-1800 Following an exceptionally hot dry summer a wildfire that had been burning west of the Continental Divide in BC for some time moved across the Akamina Pass into Waterton Lakes National Park. On the evening of September 12 hot temperatures, very strong W winds and low humidity led to a rapid expansion of the fire, in excess of 38,000 hectares, into the park and into the grassland to the N of the park, and also into the headwaters of the Castle River in the newly established Castle Wildland Park. Aggressive firefighting and the arrival of cooler weather that brought some rain and snow stopped the spread of the fire, but the whole area, including Vicki Ridge, was shrouded in dense smoke for almost a week. By Monday Morning (September 18), however, the smoke had cleared and the first day of the count was thankfully conducted under smokeless skies. The temperature at 0900 was 4C, reached a high of 7C for most of the afternoon but fell to 5C by the end of observation. Winds were W 30-40 km/h all day with regular gusts of 50-60 km/h. Cloud cover was initially 50% cumulus that thickened and darkened to 70% in the afternoon, but observing conditions were excellent all day. The first migrant of the season was a Sharp-shinned Hawk at 0941 and a total of 38 migrants of 10 species were counted by the time the last bird, also a Sharp-shinned Hawk, flew south at 1720, which was also the only migrant seen after 1600. The flight comprised 2 Bald Eagles (1a, 1sa), 14 adult Sharp-shinned Hawks, 3 Cooper’s Hawks (2a, 1j), 1 adult Northern Goshawk, 1 adult light morph Swainson’s Hawk, 9 Red-tailed Hawks (8 calurus: 6a, 1j and 1 adult light morph harlani, which is a seldom seen morph for the subspecies), 1 adult light morph Ferruginous Hawk, 5 Golden Eagles (3sa, 2j), 1 male American Kestrel and 1 unaged female columbarius Merlin. A resident pair of Golden Eagles was seen throughout the day, and the male displayed briefly at 1219. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for periods of rain and snow which is just what is needed to continue controlling the fire, but does not augur well for raptor movement.


9 hours BAEA 2, SSHA 14, COHA 3, NOGO 1, SWHA 1, RTHA 9, FEHA 1, GOEA 5, AMKE 1, MERL 1 TOTAL 38



Steeples No observation: because of teaching commitments Vance will be unable to observe on Mondays and Wednesdays this season.





MOUNT LORETTE SUMMARY COUNT (September 20 to November 15)











Accipiter sp. (UA)






Buteo sp. (UB)


Eagle sp. (UE)






Falco sp. (UF)

Unidentified Raptor (UU)