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

Le Conte's Sparrow 1.jpg

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