The Years End

As the wind and howling snow blasts away the last cobwebs of 2015, the IBA Program can look back on a successful year. There have been many things achieved and it would be impossible to name all of them, so instead I am going to share a few photo highlights. I am sure our volunteers will have many more interesting experiences and I hope that one or two might share those here at some point…

30th April – West and North Shoal Lake (part of the North, West and East Shoal Lakes IBA)


Pair of Red-necked Grebe. Photo copyright Tim Poole


Compared to the fall migration blitzes, the spring numbers of migrant ducks appeared to be higher especially in the sheltered areas of West Shoal Lake. Here we have Lesser Scaup, Canvasback and Bufflehead. Photo copyright Tim Poole


Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets are fairly numerous in the Shoal Lakes. Photo copyright Tim Poole

A first ever trip to the Shoal Lakes and an opportunity to meet with Donna Martin for the very first time. I was late meeting Donna but in my defence, I took the road along the west of West Shoal Lake and managed to get overwhelmed by the numbers of birds. Seriously huge! Donna had a good tour and managed to see among others, Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Sandhill Crane, Horned Grebes, Broad-winged Hawk, 12 species of duck and Wilson’s Phalarope (a lifer and personal highlight).

May 9th – International Migratory Bird Day (Click for blog)


Sora at Oak Hammock Marsh IBA. Photo by Tim Poole

The IBA Program celebrated International Migratory Bird Day at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. Starting with an early morning bird walk with members of the public (highlights included Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Harris’s Sparrow), I then got to meet our Caretakers for the first time as we had a meeting together. The day was finished off with a talk about IBAs and the superb eBird by Christian. A good day out all in all.

27 May – Lake Manitoba


Horned Grebes (Slavonian Grebe for any Europeans out there) have been added to the global vulnerable list since this bird was photographed. Photo copyright Tim Poole

Bonnie Chartier and I were very fortunate to be given permission to visit one IBA on private land. So fortunate alas that unfortunately I am not even sure I can release the name. Seriously, I’m not! We had an amazing day with this Brit being able to secure a bunch of lifers but even more impressive were the final numbers 72 species, 4092 individuals including 14 species of duck and 5 species of grebe. My personal highlights were the shorebirds, 16 species including lifers (Semipalmated Plover and Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Short-billed Dowitcher, White-rumped Sandpiper and Stilt Sandpiper. We also managed to get a cracking view of a Virginia Rail wandering around in the open in broad daylight.


American Avocets are certainly one of the most charismatic shorebirds of the prairie wetlands. Photo copyright Tim Poole


Migrating shorebirds like this Lesser Yellowlegs were present in good numbers in late May


Every biology student is probably familiar with phalaropes as natures polyandrous bird species. A single female Wilson’s Phalarope will have more than one mate and then leave the male to raise the kids – most modern! Photo copyright Tim Poole

19th June – Pipestone (Click for blog)


Pair of baby skunks at the side of the road. Photo by Tim Poole

Not strictly in the Southwestern Mixed-grass Prairie IBA but my first ever experience of a Sprague’s Pipit needs to be recorded in itself. Plus skunks, badgers and a host of other things. This was the start of a very successful weekend for the IBA Program. Oh and we even managed to stop in on Douglas Marsh, which was, er, marshy.

20th June – Southwestern Mixed-Grass Prairie (Click for blog)


Group photo copyright Carla Church. Ferruginous Hawk, Mule Deer and Great Horned Owls all copyright Tim Poole

From early morning Ferruginous Hawks to owls in a barn, a glimpse of a Lazuli Bunting and Loggerhead Shrikes, this was some day! Not forgetting our landowner workshop and a trip to Chicken Chef. A true rural Manitoba experience!

21st June – Prairie blitz (Click here for blogand hereand check this out too)

41 Sprague’s Pipits and over 230 Chestnut-collared Longspurs for our blitzers. Chest-collared Longspur and Sprague’s Pipit photos copyright Christian Artuso.

22nd June – Whitewater Lake (Click here for blog)


Not a California Gull or Ibis maybe but this Virginia Rail peeked his head through the grass at Whitewater Lake IBA. Photo copyright Tim Poole

A good visit to this gem in prairies and abundant bird life to savour including Manitoba’s first recorded breeding colony of White-faced Ibis and a California Gull. It was wet, dreary, the roads were a mess. A bit like Scotland in fact…

7th July – Riverton Sandy Bar (Click here for blog)

Marshall and I joined Joanne Smith and her husband Dave on a boat trip out to monitor the birds at Hecla Bar. This proved that birdwatching from a boat isn’t as fun as it sounds. Good numbers of pelicans, cormorants, gulls and terns were present. I also got to see firsthand tracks from ATV users which are potentially a threat to the breeding birds at Riverton. All photos above copyright to Joanne Smith.

8th August – Banana Days and Whitewater Lake (Click here for blog and here for another)

At risk of covering old ground and giving people sour grapes, this was a very fruitful day, in fact a peach of a day in the southwest. We even got to visit a pear of IBAs and caught a glimpse of a magnificent Prairie Falcon. Prairie Falcon and American Avocet photos copyright Christian Artuso.

29th August and 3rd October – Shoal Lake Blitz (Click here for August blog, and here for an update, and here for October)

Thanks again to all the volunteers who made these events a success. There were many highlights, not least the Surf and White-winged Scoters, Trumpeter Swans, a Yellow Rail and a bear (or was it a cow). In total we counted over 140 species and nearly 20,000 individual birds over the 2 days. A possibility for another go in May 2016……

Below are some of the photo highlights

Photos copyright Garry Budyk

Photos copyright Christian Artuso

Photos copyright Donna Martin

Photos copyright Bill Rideout

Photos copyright Jo Swartz

August 31st – Delta Marsh


Washing the car two days earlier seemed like a waste of time

The most Scottish of days yet, it made the earlier trip to Whitewater Lake appear dry by comparison. It was so soggy in fact it changed our blue car to an interesting shade of brown. I never got around to blogging this trip but thanks to Carrie Braden, the local coordinator for the Breeding Bird Atlas and a volunteer with the IBA Program for showing me around the entire IBA, which if you know Delta Marsh, you would know that is some undertaking. There were plenty of birds too, including gathering flocks of thousands of ducks readying for the coming journey south and large numbers of Western Grebes gathered in the channels.


Note to oneself, next time take a proper camera to visit an IBA. Those brown blogs are meant to be Western Grebes. Photo (unashamedly) by Tim Poole

Oh, and if you wish to know more about Delta Marsh or are in need of a last minute Christmas gift, why not purchase the new book ‘Delta: A Prairie Marsh and its People’ by among others, Glen Suggett from Manitoba Conservation.  See

15th September – Grant’s Lake


The channels at Grant’s Lake make great breeding habitat for marsh birds. Photo by Tim Poole

Another trip which failed to make the blog, mainly because time just rushed away from me. Dave Nichol, our local caretaker was my tour guide this time. Given this is a lake we did this trip in style in a canoe. This is a globally important site for migrating Canada Geese but we appeared to have hit it a wee bit early. Instead there were large numbers of ducks and coots gathering for migration. And we didn’t get lost in the channels. Well, not too lost anyway.


Just to prove it was a canoe… Photo by Tim Poole

Finally, a big thanks to everyone who has been involved in making 2015 a success for the Manitoba Important Bird Areas Program. Have a merry Christmas and happy New Year and and we look forward to more success in 2016.