Morning Glory at Netley-Libau Marsh (MB009)

Charlie McPherson, IBA Caretaker for Netley-Libau Marsh shares this mornings tales of migrating birds… 

As I left for Warner Rd. (two miles from my house in Whytewold)  this morning a flock of some 30 crying gulls were flying over.  And when I got to Warner Rd., “Oh my! I guestimate 1000 scattered about on the ice as far as the binocs could see with another several thousand winging their way north as singles and small flocks averaging 10 – 50 at a time from 6:30 am – 7:30 am – all coming out of the Netley-Libau Marsh (MB IBA009) to the beach ridge separating the marsh from the lake, all following the lake’s shoreline north, all crying, a small contingent of Franklin Gulls being a part of this gull migration.  T’was very worth hearing and seeing..

Another thing worth seeing and hearing was the Tree Swallows migrating as singles, doubles, groups of 3 or four, ten etc… Their twittering tips one off to their presence although they’re easily spotted overhead. And with, and before, and behind them, hundreds of grackle and blackbird migrating as singles, doubles, and groups of 10, 20, 50, 100 etc…

As per usual, the migration stalls within 2- 3 hours of first light.

Conditions were a complete overcast sky, slight breeze (NW) and slight drizzle to start, document page getting whimpy wet,  lake ice a blotchy mix of light grey and white to crystallized, waterlogged  dark grey, shore pond size not bad, fingers cold to freezing cold. For a moment, a one inch square of orange broke through the cloud cover on the eastern horizon hinting of a rising sun but only for a minute before being swallowed up  – a one  inch square on a 16″x32″ canvas were I to pull out my paints and paint it, cupped drake Pintail dropping in for a splash in the foreground of course.

Strikingly handsome Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers dropped in for a visit and worked the shoreline shallows just out front. Small flocks of Pintail, Green-winged Teal, and a first flock (for me this year) of equally strikingly handsome Canvasback dropped in as well, as did a flock of about 200 Mallards. These guys (the Mallards) were very wary doing their 3-4 passes, circling ever lower,  before committing to a touch down.  5 Wood Ducks (4 M, 1F) worked the shoreline off in the distance.
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Today’s Tally:

Gulls: (aprox: 3000)
Franklin: 32

Can. Goose: 16
Pintail: 11
Mallard 217
Bufflehead: 24
Wood Duck: 6
Wigeon: 3
Green-winged Teal: 16
Shovelor: 1
Goldeneye: 7
Ring-necked Duck: 7
Canvasback: 16
Lesser Scaup: 2
Just Ducks: approx.: 100

Common Merg: 6
Red-br. Merg: 6
Hooded Merg: 2

Robin: 1
Grackle and Blackbirds: (aprox: 700)
Flicker: 1
Tree Swallow: 42
Dickie-birds: 7 (:

Killdeer: 1 (singing – if you can call it that.)

Greater Yellowlegs: 8
Wilson’s Snipe: 2

Great-blue Heron: 1

Magpie: 2
Crow: 14

Raven: 1

Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day @ Oak Hammock Marsh with IBA Manitoba

Blog by Tim Poole, Manitoba IBA Coordinator

May 9th is International Migratory Bird Day, a day where we celebrate one of the most important annual events in the Americas (and wider afield). This is probably the most exciting time of year for any self-respecting birder with even seeing common species seeming like an event. The American Robin at the back of my house burst into song last week, I saw my first Common Loon of the year just last night, raptors are daily on the move along the Red River and Pembina River Valleys and the sight of Canada Geese is no longer an event in Winnipeg. The birds are on the move!

Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre will be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day with a series of events including bird banding and a warbler workshop by Paula Grieef, Resident Naturalist (see here for details on the workshop). Earlier in the morning, I will be doing a birding walk to collect data to be entered on eBird later in the day. I will aim to leave the main parking lot at 8am. Along with meetings with our Caretakers, the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator, Christian Artuso, will be giving a talk in the afternoon on IBA’s and eBird. This is a fantastic opportunity for people to discover more about the IBA Program and get an insight into using eBird. The plan is that Christian will be entering data collected that very morning within the IBA. We will also be around before and after the talk to discuss volunteer opportunities (or you might just wish to go birding). Cost for Christians talk will be included in standard admittance to the Interpretive Centre, although the Workshop will cost extra. For more information on the day at Oak Hammock see http://www.oakhammockmarsh.ca/events/international-migratory-bird-day/.

For more information on International Migratory Bird Day see http://www.migratorybirdday.org/.

Being the Caretaker for Riverton Sandy Bar IBA (MB091) in 2014

by: Joanne Smith, Caretaker at Riverton Sandy Bar IBA. All photos copyright Joanne Smith with the exception of caretaker photo by Lynda Baker

Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling, Northern Leopard Frog and Nature Manitoba summer student Marshall Birch

Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling, Northern Leopard Frog and Nature Manitoba summer student Marshall Birch

It has been rather interesting to see how an IBA can change within a few short months.  In 2014, the Sandy Bar sand spit (east of Riverton on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg) went from being a snow covered area with six foot high drifts in May, to a beautiful beach area accessible by foot in June, to a flooded area only accessible by boat in July and finally back to a normal looking beach area by October.  The area was normal in that it was again accessible by foot and the land area was probably about the same however, the shape had completely changed.

Highlights of Riverton Sandy Bar.

Riverton Sandy Bar IBA

On May 9th, there were still 4 ft snow drifts at the south western part of Sandy Bar but by May 16th the shoreline was basically bare with some ice remaining on Lake Winnipeg.  By this date, the two target species for this IBA, Common Tern and Ring-billed Gull, had both arrived.

From left to right and top to bottom: Common Tern nest, Common Tern, Sweet White Clover erosion and Caspian Tern, Common Tern and Ring-billed Gulls

From left to right and top to bottom: Common Tern nest, Common Tern, Sweet White Clover erosion and Caspian Tern, Common Tern and Ring-billed Gulls

In June, ground nesting signs were placed in two areas on Sandy Bar as well as the official IBA sign to alert visitors to the importance of this area.  Funding for the nesting signs was provided by Manitoba Conservation.

For those who were in Manitoba during the July Canada Day weekend, you may remember the rain/wind storm that resulted in high lake levels. Many young birds were found washed ashore on a few of the southern beaches of Lake Winnipeg.  This storm made some huge changes to the appearance of Sandy Bar.  A large portion of the sand bar was under water and the storm had washed away one of the nesting signs which had been bolted onto a steel post.  It is believed that this storm likely destroyed nests at Sandy Bar as there were only one juvenile Common Tern and one juvenile Ring-billed Gull seen during the summer visits to the area.  However, one advantage of having much of the sand bar under water was that it deterred ATV access.

In August, an information box was erected on the Chamber of Commerce notice board with Manitoba IBA brochures that were available for anyone interested in learning about all of Manitoba’s 38 IBA’s.

From right to left and top to bottom: Juvenile Bald Eagle, approximately 1500 Frankin's Gulls, the only Juvenile Common Tern seen in 2014 and Green-winged Teals in fall migration

From right to left and top to bottom: Juvenile Bald Eagle, approximately 1500 Frankin’s Gulls, the only Juvenile Common Tern seen in 2014 and Green-winged Teals in fall migration

Juvenile Bald Eagles from the nearby nest, juvenile Spotted Sandpiper and a Great Blue Heron were common sights at Sandy Bar during the summer months. Fall migration brought with it a few interesting birds such as one Red Knot of the endangered ‘rufa’ subspecies and a number of “Species at Risk” Rusty Blackbirds.  The regular fall visitors Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Green-winged Teal and Caspian Tern were also seen in late summer and early fall.

From top to bottom: Rusty Blackbird, Blue-green Algae Ruddy Turnstone and Least Sandpiper

From top to bottom: Rusty Blackbird, Blue-green algae, Ruddy Turnstone and Least Sandpiper

In 2014 Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship designated Riverton Sandy Bar as a Special Conservation Area.  This means that all-terrain vehicles will now be banned from this area from April 1 to September 15.  It will also forbid human use of the area should a piping plover be reported.  This will also be of great benefit for other ground nesting birds such as the Common Tern.

Top to bottom: White Sweet Clover, Dunlin, ATV tracks and Ring-billed Gull

Top to bottom: White Sweet Clover, Dunlin, ATV tracks and Ring-billed Gull

To help make IBA Riverton Sandy Bar appealing to Piping Plovers, it has been suggested that pulling the white sweet clover from the sand bar would be beneficial.  In a previous conservation plan, it was suggested that if project funding was limited, encroachment by woody vegetation should be considered the highest ranking threat to avian nesting habitat along the Sandy Bar.

For those who may be interested in helping to “Weed for a Day” at IBA Riverton Sandy Bar, there will be a morning set aside within the next few weeks where volunteers can meet to help pull some of the clover from the area.  No experience necessary!  All that is required is a pair of work gloves and a little ambition. Many hands make for light work…and hopefully for successful nesting birds!

Weeds to pull on Riverton Sandy Bar

Weeds to pull on Riverton Sandy Bar

For more information on the weed-pulling day, please contact:

Joanne Smith

Email: picsmith@live.ca

Click the link to see Joanne’s Riverton Sandy Bar Facebook page