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Beaver Mines and Steeples, September 20


Introduction This is the 29th 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 observers at Mount Lorette will be posting their daily results directly to the RMERF website at This blog will therefore only cover the Vicki Ridge and Steeples sites although I will endeavour to keep the Lorette numbers in the summary chart at the end of the blog up to date.

Fall counts have been conducted on Vicki Ridge since 2017 and this season will be the third consecutive complete (September 20 to November 17) count at the site which is located 4.5 km WNW of the Hamlet of Beaver Mines in SW Alberta.

Vance Mattson will again be watching at his Steeples site for the 11th consecutive year since 2009. This site is located on the east side of the Kootenay Valley (Rocky Mountain Trench) 36 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


Sunday, September 20 Vicki Ridge [Day 1] 0800-1915 (Peter Sherrington and Hilary Atkinson observing from the Waterton 61 wellsite on the western flank of the ridge and Gord Petersen at the western edge of Kyllo Ridge at the Waterton 68 wellsite, 1325-1840). Since September 11 the area was under a blanket of smoke originating from fires in California, Oregon and Washington. Light rain fell overnight, however, and the dawn revealed a smokeless sky and clear ridges for the first time in 9 days. The temperature at 0800 was 12C, the high at 1600 was 16.5C and it was 13C at 1915. Winds were moderate to strong WSW-W all day, 15-20 km/h to 1000 then 30-40 gust 50 km/h for the rest of the day. Cloud cover was 90-100% dark stratocumulus that produced very light rain showers to 1030; at 1245 the clouds began to break and 90% cumulus at 1300 gradually reduced to 30% by the end of observation and it was mainly sunny after 1500. The conditions produced a fairly strong opening day count of 100 raptors of 11 species between 0932 and 1831 with a high hourly count of 28 birds between 1600 and 1700. The count at the Waterton 61 site was 1u Turkey Vulture, 1j Bald Eagle, 2j male Northern Harriers, 18 Sharp-shinned Hawks (6a, 1j, 11u), 3 Cooper’s Hawks (1a, 1j, 1u), 3 small Accipiters, 16 Red-tailed Hawks (15 calurus light morphs: 13a, 2u, and 1 undifferentiated dark morph bird), 1a, light morph Ferruginous Hawk, 14 Golden Eagles (8a, 4sa, 2j), 1 male American Kestrel and 1u female columbarius Merlin). At the Waterton 68 site Gord counted 39 migrants of 5 species between 1330 and 1820 that comprised 12 Sharp-shinned Hawks (3a, 3j, 16u), 7 Cooper’s Hawks (2a, 1j, 4u), 1 adult light morph Broad-winged Hawk, 5 Red-tailed Hawks (3u calurus light morphs; and 3 undifferentiated birds (1 light and 2 dark morph birds), and 14 Golden Eagles (3a, 4j, 7u). The combined count of 100 birds was 1u Turkey Vulture, 1j Bald Eagle, 2j male Northern Harriers, 30 Sharp-shinned Hawks (9a, 4j, 17u), 10 Cooper’s Hawks (3a, 2j, 5u), 3 small Accipiters, 1 adult light morph Broad-winged Hawk, 21 Red-tailed Hawks (15 calurus light morphs: 13a, 4u, and 4 undifferentiated birds (1 light and 3 dark morph birds), 1a, light morph Ferruginous Hawk, 28 Golden Eagles (11a, 4sa, 6j, 7u), 1 male American Kestrel and 1u female columbarius Merlin). Other bird species seen were 14 Northern Flickers, 5 Clark’s Nutcrackers, 20 Black-billed Magpies, 30 American Crows, 87 Common Ravens, 26 Mountain Bluebirds, 1 Townsend’s Solitaire, 366 American Robins and 12 Yellow-rumped Warblers.

11.25 hours TUVU 1, BAEA 1, NOHA 2, SSHA 30, COHA 10, UA 3, BWHA 1, RTHA 21, FEHA 1, GOEA 28, AMKE 1, MERL 1 TOTAL 100


Sunday, September 20 Mount Lorette [Day 1] 0730-2000 (Lori Anderson, assisted by Caroline Lambert).

12.5 hours SSHA 2 (1a, 1u), NOGO 1a, UA 2, SWHA 2a (1light, 1 dark), RTHA 2 (1a intermediate calurus, 1 indeterminate bird), 31 Golden Eagles (18a, 2sa, 2j, 9u) and UE 1 TOTAL 42


Sunday, September 20 Steeples (Vance Mattson).  No observation. Because of teaching commitments Vance will be unable to start the count until October 1 and will subsequently only be able to conduct sporadic counts.



(NOTE: all numbers provisional pending final reports)


MOUNT LORETTE  September 20-November 15


VICKI RIDGE September 20-November 15


STEEPLES September 20-November 15


DAYS  1  1  0
HOURS  0  11.25  0
OSPREY (OSPR)  0  0  0
BALD EAGLE (BAEA)   1   1   0
COOPER’S HAWK (COHA)  0  10  0
Accipiter sp. (UA)   2   3   0
RED-TAILED HAWK (RTHA)   2   21   0
Buteo sp. (UB)  0  0  0
GOLDEN EAGLE (GOEA)  31  28  0
Eagle sp. (UE)  1  0  0
MERLIN (MERL)  0  1  0
Falco sp. (UF)  0  0  0
Unidentified Raptor (UU)  0  0  0
TOTALS  42  100  0