Proven Lake Videos

This is a follow-up to Marshall’s post on Proven Lake. Ok, so Marshall tried to avoid this but we thought we would post a couple of videos to the site. Below we demonstrate how we monitor an IBA in Manitoba, or more precisely, how pointless these videos really were!

Video 1 – Finding the lake

Reaching the end of the channel, we realised that we cannot even make it onto the lake due to the dense, dead cattails.

Video 2 – Beaver lodge

Here is an old, presumably no longer used beaver lodge. The lack of fresh material suggests that beavers are not using this lodge. Extra prize to the person who can identify the bird calling – ok, it’s a bit easy, so no prize!

Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA Trip

Following my visit to Douglas Marsh IBA, I popped into Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA on my journey west recently along the TransCanada (for reasons which shall be reveled in a later blog). This is an IBA I have previously only ever skirted around on passage to the southwestern corner. On turning away from the TransCanada, I was almost immediately wishing I could spend more time exploring the area with grasslands, wetlands, deciduous woodland and open water habitats, there is huge potential for recording a large number of species in a small area.

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With limited time, it was important to gain a brief impression of the treasures held by the IBA rather than explore it fully. Much of the IBA is north of the TransCanada, an area according to the IBA habitat map of woodlands, grasslands and agriculture. The area to the south of the TransCanada appears to be of greater interest judging by the road south towards Oak Lake Resort. The pastures certainly have Bobolinks and Western Meadowlarks  for example, and there have been Sprague’s Pipit, Grasshopper Sparrow and Baird’s Sparrow recorded previously in and adjacent to the IBA – Pipestone and Sioux Valley are adjacent areas with recent records of these species.

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Bobolink. Photo by Christian Artuso.

The roads takes you through a wetland with good numbers of ducks, a couple of Red-necked Grebes and a large group of Eared Grebes. IMG_1364Eared Grebes are the most widespread species of grebe in the world, being called Black-necked Grebe in Europe, and have an estimated North American population of 3.5-4.1 million individuals. They are also flightless for 9-10 months each year, the longest time period of any species capable of flight anywhere in the world. A gregarious species, Eared Grebe nest in noisy colonies. There were also American Avocet and Wilson’s Phalarope present, species which are presumably abundant across the wider IBA.


Eared Grebes at Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA. Copyright Tim Poole

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Western Wood Pewee photographed elsewhere in Manitoba. Photo by Christian Artuso.

Passing the lake, exploration which will have to wait for another day, you come to the Oak Lake Resort. A tip-off from the Manitoba Birds Yahoo Group had led me to this point to look for a possible lifer, a Western Wood Pewee. This species breeds in western North America and is closely related to the Eastern Wood Pewee, which is a more common occurrence in Manitoba. It is a regular visitor to Manitoba but not a widespread breeding species. After a few minutes, I could clearly hear its harsh ‘pee-eer’ in the trees. Unfortunately it was too hidden to see but it was there somewhere!

There were a number of other species calling around the trees, including Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Kingbird, American Redstart and Warbling Vireo.

With greater time, Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA looks like a terrific place to explore. We do not have any regular groups or individuals monitoring bird populations here and would be very keen to speak to anyone who might be interested in either being caretaker or an IBA monitor. The IBA was designated for large breeding populations of Franklin’s Gulls (over 30,000 in the past, 8.6% of the global population), nationally significant populations of Eared Grebes and Black-crowned Night Herons and huge numbers of waterfowl in fall migration.

Come along on the 18th or 19th June for our blitz – you may find some great birds and contribute to the long-term monitoring of one of the worlds most important sites for birds.


Eastern Kingbird at Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA. This bird was flycatching from this post. Photo copyright Tim Poole

Douglas Marsh IBA

On a recent journey along the TransCanada, I dropped in on Douglas Marsh, home of the Yellow Rail. The extensive sedge meadows are ideal habitat for Yellow Rail, Le Conte’s Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow. On this occasion, I could just about make out a calling Le Conte’s from the road. As with most people, I did not stay long, plus exploring the interior of the marsh is, let’s say, a little complicated. Sora, as well as Song, Swamp and Vesper Sparrows, Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler could all be heard. A longer stay would surely have added more species.


Sedge meadows such as this one at Douglas Marsh, are ideal habitat for Yellow Rail, Le Conte’s Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow

Douglas Marsh is an interesting birding location but also a difficult place to access. Te difficulty stems from few access roads, private land ownership and the military base at Shilo which borders the entire south of the marsh. The IBA was established due it’s globally important population of Yellow Rail. Extrapolations based on survey data from 1995 suggested that there were up to 500 pairs, equating to 11.6% of the global population. 108 calling Yellow Rail were recorded calling by a single observer during a 5 minute period in 1993. This is perhaps the largest population of this species outside the Hudson Bay Lowlands. The problem with monitoring this species and others typical of sedge meadows (Le Conte’s, Nelson’s and Sedge Wren) is that they tend to call only at dusk and dawn or during the nighttime (See this useful info from eBird).

If you are ever travelling along the TransCanada east of Brandon, then drop in on Douglas Marsh, especially if you are there in the evening or early morning! More infomration on it can be found at

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Furtive sparrow in the marsh, a Le Conte’s Sparrow is an exceptionally shy species. Photo copyright Christian Artuso