Another day out at Netley-Libau Marsh (MB009)

Charlie McPherson, IBA Caretaker for Netley-Libau Marsh shares another exciting day of migrating bird activity on the marsh
Fran (my wife) and I birded, by boat, 22 km. of Lake Winnipeg’s lakeshore last Tuesday, May 5, doing the  counts for the Netley-Libau Marsh (NLM) Important Bird Area (IBA) program. The NLM IBA boundary includes the 25 km. lakeshore and reaches 1 km. into the lake. It  extends all the way from Warner Rd. on the Netley side of the marsh to the west shore of Beaconia Lake at Patricia Beach on the Libau side of the marsh.
While backing the boat and trailer into the water, Fran cries out, “Charlie, there’s a hole in the boat! It’s filling with water!” (Forgot to put the drain plug in. Hee?)  So after reloading, draining, re launching and another stiff, south wind drift towards Montreal Island in the north (the same kind Erin  and I had  on Saturday,) the thing started and we were on our way – I told her it was the choke’s fault.The lakeshore is a strewn mess of fallen and falling trees – eroded by years of Lake Winnipeg watershed inflows and wind tides plus the holding back of some of that water within Lake Winnipeg Regulation (711′ – 715′ above sea level.)   It’s not a pretty picture!

NL’s channel mouths  and the mouths of Pruden Bay and the Brokenhead River are where most of the birding activity is although the bays along the lakeshore and the beach ridge, itself, hold small  scatterings of water birds, gulls, eagles, herons, ravens, and crows, and such.

Although some of the birds are still in migration  and some are still to come, some aren’t and will remain here to breed – Western Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Coot, Forster’s Tern and Franklin Gull etc. Several hundred (each) Pelican and Cormorant (non breeders) will make NL their summer home too, as will several species of duck: Mallard, Wood Duck,  Teal, Shovelor, Redhead….

We concentrated our counts on the lakeside  but took a ‘churn us to butter’ spin bumping over the waves up the wind assaulted East Channel to the center of the marsh  on the way back. The interior marsh lakes and channels are flooded, having but the occasional duck here and there, the occasional Great-blue Heron, a few Bald Eagle, an occasional Raven and a few Red-winged Blackbird at this time of year.  Yellow Warbler and Song Sparrow are the most common song birds making  the treed channel shorelines that can reach a km. into the marsh their home; Red-wing Blackbird, Common Yellow-throat and Marsh Wren are the most common in the un treed portions of the marsh.

It’s an all grey, drizzly kind of day today, May 7,  and as I sit here typing on Chalet Beach Rd. at the NW corner of the NLM with the heater on next to what used to be Moore’s Creek, I’m  looking out over a 1-2  km. ring of cattails (that the  drought of 2003 brought back)  into what is now the gigantic, 60+ sq. km. Netley Lake. On a clear day, I can see the Netley Cut approx. 10 km. to the south, south east. Prior to the drought of 2003 there were no cattails here, drowned out by preceding  flood years. There’s a few Red-winged Blackbirds establishing territories, a pair of Mallard cupping in for a landing, another 4 laying on the road eating yummy gravel and taking showers, and a Canada Goose sitting on a nest in an open area of winter flattened cattails about 1/2 km. out. She ‘cloud tans’ after showering and there’s a goofy Sora Rail laughing it’s hyena  laugh just in back of me. On a good day, one might be able to see a few other bird species, but only a few. As I’ve said, the NLM is an en

Netley Lake Now
Two bird species in migration on Tuesday were Northern Harrier and Sharp-shinned Hawk. After scooting across the lake from Warner Rd. in the NW to the Brokenhead River in the NE, Fran and I  travelled upstream (south) on the Brokenhead to the channel feeding and draining Folster’s Lake. There’s usually some evidence of breeding birds in and around this lake – moreso than any of the other inner marsh lakes. You can see the casino on Hwy. 59 from this lake. The casino ended up with the controversial palm trees that Winnipeg Beach had ordered a few years ago.
 Channel Mouths
Folster’s lake was bird less and too shallow to enter with the motor down and it was too windy to row into so after  bumping over a school of  Carp (thump, thunk, thump) we turned  around and headed back north to Lake Wpg. and across the lake west along the beach ridge to Pruden Bay where the Western Grebes like to feed, up the East Channel (south into the marsh) which the army that Canada sent to take out Louis Riel paddled up) to the Cross Channel, west across to the Main (the shipping channel,)  up the Main (south) to the Hughes at the center of the marsh – about 5 km. from the beach ridge – (the channel fur traders coming from the west would use, the channel with the ever so successful breeding pair of Bald Eagle – 7 years in a row now that I am aware of) and down the Hughes (north) past BW’s future Demo Channel (BW is planning to use this channel as a test site for phosphorous uptake – a part of the Tomorrow Now Green Plan to save the lake from nutrient overloading) to its mouth where we stopped for lunch and got in on a most marvelous migration of Sharp-shinned Hawks. We caught a few  of them drifting over the beach ridge on their way west to Warner Rd. earlier in the day and now again a bunch (35 in 1 hr.)  over the ridge (about 100 yds. wide here)  at the mouth of the Hughes and, once clearing the trees, some bombing down over the Hughes to within just meters of us.
The Mouth of the Hughes Channel 25 km shoreline
The Hughes was a tint of grey in Tuesday’s afternoon light draining into and sprawling out over L. Wpg. into a broad, broad tone of grey all the way across the lake reaching the distant northern horizon as a very dark shade of grey with a touch of cobalt blue to ‘hold it down.’ Climbing out of the shade, the sky on the horizon was a light tint of cerulean blue advancing overhead to deep, deep cerulean behind  NW to SE strings of plain, thin white clouds – nothing dazzling to write home about really, kinda plain, actually. But then there were those hawks.
9:00 am – travelling Warner Rd. to the mouth of the Salamonia Channel – 4.5 km.
Crow: 5
Mallard: 8
Bufflehead: 6
Lesser-yellowleg: 5
Canada Goose: 2
Gulls: 16
Western Grebe: 26
Forster’s Tern: 11
Franklin Gull: 4
Belted Kingfisher: 1
Ring-necked Duck: 32
Lesser Scaup: 2
9:20 am. Mouth of the Salamonia Channel: 
Pelican: 10
Bald Eagle: 3
Cormorant: 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 8 (as singles flying west to Warner Rd.)
Raven: 1
Blackbird species: 11
Common Loon: 2 (flying west)
Great-blue Heron: 1
Ducks: 9 (in flight, too far out to id)
Western Grebe: 8
Mallard: 2
9:40 am: Mouth of the Hughes Channel – 1 km. east of the Sal.
Greater  Yellow-leg: 18 (two small flocks in migration – 7/11)
Western Grebe: 4
Forster’s Tern: 2
Bald Eagle: 1 (nest occupied)
Ring-necked Duck: 3
Pelican: 8
9:40 am: Between the Hughes and the Main Channels – 4 km.
Gull sp: 6
Bald Eagle: 11 (10 Juv. 2 Adult, 1 nest occupied)
Forster’s Tern: 4
Just Ducks: 6
Western Grebe: 12
Canada Goose: 1
Shorebird: 14 (in migration, too far out to id)
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 7 (over beach ridge going west)
Pelican: 12
Lesser Scaup: 5
Crow: 2
Northern Harrier: 1
Great-blue Heron: 9
10:10 am:  from Navigational Piers (about 1/3 km into L. Wpg:) out front of the Main Channel:  (these piers used to be a part of the beach ridge)
Bald Eagle: 1 (J) (all eagles to this point are not repeat counts)
Pelican: 7
Gull sp: 26
D-b Cormorant: 17
Great-blue Heron: 2
Harrier: 1
Forster’s Tern: 3
Common Merganser: 1
10:45 am: Entering the Main Channel – 1/2 km.
Shorebird Sp: 5
Cormorant: 26
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 3
Western Grebe: 4
Gull: 1
Common Loon: 1
Raven: 5 (used nest on nav. tower)
Mallard: 5
11:00 am – Leaving Main Channel over submerged sand bridges to IBA boundary 1 km. into L. Wpg – slow going – motor bumping bottom;  east in deeper water along IBA boundary to mouth of Folster’s Creek – 8 km., very windy/wavey that far out – S)    
Pelican 2/Gulls Sp: 3 (feeding on a floating fish 1/2 km. out)
Great-blue Heron (fly over)
Lesser Yellow-leg: 2 (fly over)
Mallard: 1 (swimming 1 km. out)
Just Ducks: 25 ( swimming 1/2 km. out)
11:50 am. Mouth of Folster’s Creek and Folster’s Creek to the Brokenhead River – 3 km:
Bald Eagle: 3 (J)
Gull Sp: 20
Franklin Gull: 8
Forster’s Tern: 16
Pelican: 2
Cormorant: 8
Red-breasted Merganser: 2 (fly over)
Magpie: 2
Raven: 2
12:05 am. Mouth of Brokenhead River south to first cottage upstream – 3 km.
Raven: 4
Beaver Lodges along banks: 3
Gull Sp: 3
Canada Goose: 2
Great-blue Heron: 2
Mallard: 11
Bald Eagle: 3
Green-winged Teal: 3
Lesser Yellow-leg: 1
Forster’s Tern: 4
12:13 am. Brokenhead River west up channel to Folster’s Lake – 1.5 km.
Beaver Lodge: 1 (winter drawdowns of L. Wpg. for power production  – 1 ft. on average – exposes lodge entrances and freezes beaver (and muskrat too) out.
Forster’s Tern: 1
Gull Sp: 1
Coot: 2
Mallard: 4
Shorebird Sp: 5
Carp: (School of) at east entrance to Folster’s Lake – lake too shallow to motor, wind to0 strong to row – no birds on lake.
Back north to Lake Winnipeg, back west to mouth of Folster’s Creek (no double counts.)
12:40 pm. From Folster’s Creek west to Pruden Bay along the lakeshore 100 – 200 yards out – 6 km. – not 1 km. out as in when travelling east along IBA boundary.
Ring-necked Duck: 3
Bald Eagle: 16  (2 adults – one on nest, 14 Juv.)  Just a bit to the east of the east edge of Pruden Bay and directly north of Straight Channel as it enters Pruden Bay (3.5 km. to the south)  is the center of the lakeshore.  The 16 Bald Eagles counted from Folster’s Creek to Pruden Bay on the east side of the lakeshore are not the 16 Bald Eagles counted from Warner Rd. to the Main Channel on the west side of the lakeshore.
Raven: 7
Shorebirds: 5
Lesser-yellowleg: 1
1:05 pm. Mouth of Pruden Bay –  1km:
Western Grebe: 104 (feeding)
Shorebirds: 7
Red-breasted Merganser: 2
Gull: 1
1:15 pm. Mouth of East Channel upstream (south) to Cross Channel – 2.5 km.
Mallard: 5
Gull: 1
Western Grebe: 3
Cuckoos: 2 (churned to butter – you should see Fran’s documentation scribbles)
1:20 pm. Cross Channel west to Main Channel – not quite 1 km:  
Raven: 1
Green-winged Teal: 15
Great-blue Heron: 2
Bald Eagle: 1
1:25 pm. From Cross Channel upstream (south) on Main Channel to center of the marsh (5 km from L. Wpg.) to Bald Eagle nest down stream (north) on the Hughes Channel (approx. 3 km:)
Mallard:  4
Gull Sp: 1
Raven: 1 (on nest, west side of Main at center of marsh)
Bald Eagle: 1 (adult on nest on west side of Hughes)
Magpie nest: 1
1:30 pm. Downstream on the Hughes going north to it’s mouth – approx. 4.5 km:
Gull Sp: 6
Wood Duck: 2
Mallard: 7
Shovellor: 2
Ring-necked Duck: 6
Cormorant: 1
Blue-winged Teal: 2
Western Grebe: 13
Coot: 3
Beaver Lodge: 1
Red-winged Blackbird: 22 (flock)
1:50 pm. Mouth of Hughes (west bank – picnic.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 35
Palm Warbler: 1
Tree Swallow: 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 1
N. Harrier: 7
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
Dragonflies: 3
Mallard: 3
Forster’s Tern: 4
Killdeer: 1
Blue-winged Teal: 1
Greater-yellowleg: 1
Shovellor: 1
3:55 pm. Hughes Channel west to Warner Rd. –  5 km.
Lesser Scaup: 53
Gull Sp: 84 (does not include the 16 we counted on our way out earlier in the day.)