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.
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.
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. Eared 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.
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.