by: Joanne Smith, Caretaker at Riverton Sandy Bar IBA. All photos copyright Joanne Smith with the exception of caretaker photo by Lynda Baker
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
For more information on the weed-pulling day, please contact:
Click the link to see Joanne’s Riverton Sandy Bar Facebook page