Inventory studies of birds on and near crown lease number 17, Athabasca Tar Sands, 1974

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  • An inventory study of water-associated birds occurring on and near the Syncrude Canada Ltd. Lease #17 in the Athabasca oil sands was conducted during the period of July 8 to November 15, 1974. Regular ground surveys were conducted of 30 water bodies on and near the lease, including lakes, ponds, the Athabasca River, roadside borrow pits, and shallow marshes created by clearing and water diversion on the Syncrude construction site. Detailed descriptions of the habitat characteristics of the water bodies were made, and the habitats that birds occupied were recorded during all surveys. Daily migration watches were conducted near the Athabasca River during the period from August 26 to November 15. Casual observations (those not made during surveys or watches) were recorded in an annotated list. The common and widely-distributed nesting species were the common loon, red-necked grebe, American wigeon, ringnecked duck, common goldeneye, bufflehead, sora, spotted sandpiper, lesser yellowlegs, eastern kingbird, red-winged blackbird, and common grackle. Local increases in the numbers of mallards, pintails, and green-winged teal in late summer indicated that the study area may have been used as a moulting area by these species. Large numbers of migrating Canada and white-fronted geese flew over the area without stopping during late August and September. Large numbers of migrating waterfowl, mainly scaup spp., mallards, and American coots stopped over on some of the lakes during September and October. Large numbers of migrating shorebirds were observed on the shallow marshes on the Syncrude site during July and August. Migrating water pipits, warblers, sparrows, blackbirds, Lapland longspurs, redpolls, and snow buntings were commonly observed during autumn. Migrating bald eagles were frequently observed during September. One observation of an adult and an immature whooping crane was made during October. The habitat preferences of the common species, or groups of closely related species, were examined quantitatively by means of Stepwise Multiple Discriminant Analysis (SMDA) and Stepwise Multiple Regression Analysis (SMRA). SMDA was used to identify those species which occupied similar and dissimilar habitats during the summer (July-August) and autumn (September- October). Comparisons of the differences between species during these two time periods indicated that there was a general reduction in habitat specificity during the autumn period. SMRA was used to determine the habitats that each common species or species group was associated with during the period from July to November. Some ecological problems that could result from the Syncrude development were discussed.

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    Conditions of Use Sharp, P.L., D.A. Birdsall and W.J. Richardson, 1975. Inventory studies of birds on and near crown lease number 17, Athabasca Tar Sands, 1974. Syncrude Canada Ltd., Edmonton, Alberta. Environmental Research Monograph 1975-4. 109 pp. plus appendix. Permission for non-commercial use, publication or presentation of excerpts or figures is granted, provided appropriate attribution (as above) is cited. Commercial reproduction, in whole or in part, is not permitted without prior written consent. The use of these materials by the end user is done without any affiliation with or endorsement by Syncrude Canada Ltd. Reliance upon the end user's use of these materials is at the sole risk of the end user.