Saturday 29th August 2015 was our first bird migration blitz at the North, West and East Shoal Lakes IBA. 14 people made their way from WInnipeg, Gimli and further afield to take part. Tim Poole shares some memories and photos from the mornings birding.
Mist. Oh dear! Not the most auspicious start to the mornings birding activities. Surely things will improve soon?
Driving along West Shoal Lake, the mist hovering over the water, a Belted Kingfisher flies across the front and as the organizer, I am getting a wee bit concerned. Soon Garry Budyk and John Weier will be here to start counting and I haven’t got a didgeridoo (clue) how things are going to go. Apparently it took about an hour after our 7am start for Garry and John to get going. But things did improve (as evidenced below).
John and Garry would eventually be able to count good numbers or birds. in fact they managed to record 78 species and almost 1600 individuals. The section of West Shoal Lakes is a fantastic place for seeing ducks and shorebirds, even more-so in spring than fall.
14 people scattered in cars, foot, even a boat across the area. Optics galore and (from the evidence of the photos here), some rather good photographic gear. For anyone unfamiliar with the area, the Shoal Lakes IBA is in the Interlake area near Inwood. Originally this was a great place for Piping Plover but high water levels make it currently unsuitable for these rare birds. instead there are waterfowl aplenty, blackbirds, shorebirds and even the occasional Least Bittern (see here). Donna Martin is caretaker for this IBA and was also responsible for gaining the two donations which are funding these fall blitzes. Beforehand the big job was to recruit volunteers and provide maps of the survey sections which you can see to the left.
Donna was teamed up with Ray Methot and covered the north and west sides of North Shoal Lake. There were a fair few shorebirds in the area and another Least Bittern darted away.
I dropped Matt Gasner in rubber boots to walk across the washed out parts of Provincial Road 415, where he would meet Christian Artuso halfway. The following photos and captions are all from Christian and along with the captions tell the story of their birding highlights and endeavors along the flooded highway.
While Christian and Matt were wading across an old highway, I was exploring another nearby road which might disappear at any moment. Needless to say, the mist reappeared before the road disappeared! I did manage one major achievemnet; that of getting the wettest feet of the day while trying to wade across a flooded section of road. I still managed to find 419 American Coots and 400+ ducks in the surrounding wetlands. Unbelievably, even though I eventually waded to the lake shore, I failed to enter the IBA! Later I would meet up with Christian and Matt counting another section with Semipalmated Plovers (37), Semipalmated Sandpiper (3), Least Sandpiper (2) and a single calling Long-billed Dowitcher.
While all this was going on, we had Bonnie Chartier roaming East Shoal Lake with Cam Meuckon from Manitoba Conservation on a boat. Special thanks to Cam for offering his time and the boat for the morning. Birding highlight? Scoters, ’nuff’ said!
Joanne Smith, Bill Rideout and Peter Douglas surveyed the eastern side of North Shoal Lake. They had the distinction of seeing a rather special couple of waterbirds….
Apparently these guys must have started really early judging by this photo of the moon.
One nameless member of the group spotted a Big Black Bear (new acronym BBB). Stoooooooooooooooooooop’ he/she yelled, ‘I see a bear’. The other group members turn to look but only see a field of cows. Admit it, we’ve all managed to confuse a cow and a bear!
Again there were hosts of birds and much confusion to be found; yellowlegs, terns, ravens and warblers among a host of others.
Jo Swartz, Liis Veelma and Betsy Thorsteinson were our East Shoal Lake road team. They managed to achieve another birding highlight by hearing the secretive Yellow Rail calling very early on. Other birding highlights were Pectoral Sandpiper and American Pipit, the only group to locate these species on the blitz. I should apologise for sending this group up some pretty ropey roads looking for access points to the southern end of the lakes. Sorry!
Just before 1pm, a trail of us began to turn up at Rosie’s Cafe in Inwood for a late breakfast/brunch/lunch to share experiences and locations for a couple of species (the Trumpeter Swans were certainly revisited).
Thanks to everyone mentioned above for giving up your weekend to help out. The next blitz is on Saturday October 3rd. If you are interested in coming along for the ride please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.