Whitewater Lake IBA Blitz – Media, Invertebrates and Bird Totals

Thanks again to everyone who attended the recent blitz at Whitewater Lake, a stirring effort by all volunteers. In total 26 people made the journey to the southwest for this blitz, a record for the program. There are a couple of excellent articles published about the blitz and rather than write our own report, take a look at the links below:

CBC report on Whitewater Lake IBA blitz by Bryce Hoye

Nature Manitoba newsletter piece by Lynsay Perkins

So for the results. A special guest appearance by Nature Manitoba’s very own Deanna Dodgson produced a list of some of the butterflies and dragonflies of Whitewater. Being August rather than June or July, the total number of species was fewer than one might expect. However, it is great to highlight the fact that Whitewater Lake is a great place for other wildlife not just birds. Here is the list:

Shadow Darner 1
shadow darner

Cracking image of a Shadow darner taken at Whitewater Lake. Copyright Deanna Dodgson

Unidentified Darner 38+
Saffron-winged Meadowhawk 100+

Saffron-winged-meadowhawk taken in another location. Copyright Deanna Dodgson

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk 5
White-faced Meadowhawk 1
Cabbage Butterfly 73+
butterflies_8734c_check species

Cabbage White Butterflies were especially abundant. This photo was taken at Whitewater Lake in 2015. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

Common Wood Nymph 4
Unidentified Lady 1
Monarch 1


In addition a few mammals were spotted out and about around the lake


Coyote lazing on a hay bale. Copyright William Rideout


Couple of sneaky Raccoons. Copyright Bill Rideout

And to the birds. Here is a quick summary of the totals:

Group of Birds Totals
Blackbirds 6943
Cormorants and Pelicans 1971
Grebes 3690
Gulls and terns 4082
Long-legged Wader 495
Rails 6076
Raptor 118
Shorebird 11898
Swallows 24618
Waterfowl 19409
All other birds 1391
TOTAL 80691

The prize for the most unusual sighting of the day goes to Garry, John and Deanna and this Common Nighthawk found sitting on the railway line.


‘Surely no one can see me’. Common Nighthawks have fantastic camouflage usually but in this case obviously not good enough! Copyright Garry Budyk

As to be expected, there were plenty of shorebirds, something we will return to shortly. Also seen were a number of songbirds including this Le Conte’s Sparrow:

Post Edit Le Conte's

Le Conte’s Sparrow on a willow, not usually a favourite habitat. Copyright Bill Rideout

Here are the main highlights of the blitz


Overall, almost 25,000 swallows were counted, a phenomenal number. Concentrations along some the powerlines were so high that volunteers had to estimate the number per metre then calculate the length of resting birds. A novel approach to bird monitoring! The large concentrations are indicative of gathering prior to migration.


Another group of birds gathering in large concentrations ahead of migrating were the blackbirds. Up to 1000 Yellow-headed Blackbirds were counted in a single flock, an incredibly high number.


The high concentrations of songbirds probably attracted a large number of raptors to Whitewater Lake. In total there were 118 individuals representing 9 species. The highlights were the Prairie Falcon and Peregrine Falcon in the eastern section of the lake.


Swainson’s Hawk, one of 9 raptor species counted at Whitewater. There was obviously plenty of food around for birds of prey. Copyright Bill Rideout


18 species were counted including a single American Black Duck and 3 Snow Goose. Surprisingly Mallards and Blue-winged Teals were the most numerous.

Long-legged Waders

Given the recent colonisation of Whitewater Lake and southern Manitoba by White-faced Ibis, the total number of 323 was quite staggering. Whitewater Lake has always been known as a great place for this group of birds. Check out the CBC article for a cracking photo of an American Bittern with a salamander taken by Bryce Hoye.

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White-faced Ibis at Whitewater. Copyright Linda Curtis

Pelicans and Cormorants

Manitoba is one of the most important areas for American White Pelicans. We counted 1691 individuals. This does not represent a breeding population but a large concentration of migratory pelicans. The total is just under 1% of the global total for this species, a really impressive number.


Clark’s Grebe, a species more likely to be encountered south and west of Manitoba, was recorded. However this was dwarfed by the incredible number of Western Grebes, 2080. This concentration of Western Grebes is greater than the 1% global population for this species and is thus a trigger species for this IBA.


In total we counted 29 species of shorebird. Of these species, we only encountered one each of Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone and Whimbrel. The most abundant shorebird was the American Avocet with 3279 individuals counted, mostly along the eastern shore. The 7 Buff-breasted Sandpipers were a wee bit disappointing considering more were reported the previous week. In fact it was likely that there had been some migration of shorebirds during the course of the previous week.

The Black-necked Stilt were a Manitoba bonus for 2016, a rare breeder in this province. These birds were to be found at a location in the west of Whitewater.

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Black-necked Stilts, a real treat for our blitzers. Photo copyright Linda Curtis

The big news refers to the dowitchers and Pectoral Sandpipers. For both Short-billed Dowitcher and Pectoral Sandpiper it seems that we counted globally significant concentrations, i.e. more than 1% of the global numbers. Due to difficulty distinguishing between Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitcher, it is likely that there were also globally important concentrations of the latter species.

Short-billed Dowitcher 021copy

Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitcher. Photo copyright Linda Curtis

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Short-billed Dowitcher and Stilt Sandpiper. Photo copyright Linda Curtis

Here is the total numbers:

Snow Goose 3
Canada Goose 1061
Cackling/Canada Goose 11
Gadwall 1016
American Wigeon 107
American Black Duck 1
Mallard 5842
Blue-winged Teal 3972
Northern Shoveler 1528
Northern Pintail 1888
Green-winged Teal 240
dabbling duck sp. 400
Canvasback 294
Redhead 59
Ring-necked Duck 39
Lesser Scaup 8
Bufflehead 9
Common Goldeneye 2
Hooded Merganser 5
Ruddy Duck 1114
duck sp. 1810
Gray Partridge 6
Pied-billed Grebe 86
Red-necked Grebe  1
Eared Grebe 1520
Western Grebe 2080
Clark’s Grebe  3
Double-crested Cormorant 280
American White Pelican 1691
American Bittern 11
Great Blue Heron 31
Great Egret 87
Cattle Egret 18
Black-crowned Night-Heron 25
White-faced Ibis 323
Turkey Vulture 1
Northern Harrier 21
Bald Eagle 10
Swainson’s Hawk 26
Red-tailed Hawk 36
Virginia Rail 6
Sora 31
American Coot (Red-shielded) 6039
Black-necked Stilt 4
American Avocet 3279
Black-bellied Plover 28
American Golden-Plover 2
Semipalmated Plover 254
Killdeer 325
Upland Sandpiper 9
Whimbrel 1
Hudsonian Godwit 6
Marbled Godwit 117
Ruddy Turnstone 1
Stilt Sandpiper 233
Sanderling 2
Dunlin 1
Baird’s Sandpiper 34
Least Sandpiper 96
White-rumped Sandpiper 8
Buff-breasted Sandpiper 7
Pectoral Sandpiper 629
Semipalmated Sandpiper 185
peep sp. 22
Short-billed Dowitcher 1594
Long-billed Dowitcher 1012
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher 2774
Wilson’s Snipe 57
Wilson’s Phalarope 146
Red-necked Phalarope 81
Spotted Sandpiper 41
Solitary Sandpiper 5
Greater Yellowlegs 557
Willet 169
Lesser Yellowlegs 214
Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs 5
Bonaparte’s Gull 2
Franklin’s Gull 710
Ring-billed Gull 1280
California Gull 5
Herring Gull (American) 2
Caspian Tern 1
Black Tern 1886
Common Tern 14
Forster’s Tern 182
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 127
Mourning Dove 201
Common Nighthawk 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 15
American Kestrel 14
Merlin 8
Peregrine Falcon 1
Prairie Falcon 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Empidonax sp.  1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Western Kingbird 70
Eastern Kingbird 192
Warbling Vireo 25
Black-billed Magpie 8
American Crow 28
Common Raven 21
Horned Lark 33
Purple Martin 26
Tree Swallow 3965
Bank Swallow 18827
Barn Swallow 771
Cliff Swallow 443
swallow sp. 586
Black-capped Chickadee 1
House Wren 4
Sedge Wren 24
Marsh Wren 45
American Robin 23
Gray Catbird 3
European Starling 45
Sprague’s Pipit 1
Cedar Waxwing 10
Common Yellowthroat 9
Yellow Warbler 20
Le Conte’s Sparrow 5
Chipping Sparrow 2
Clay-colored Sparrow 10
Vesper Sparrow 13
Savannah Sparrow 82
Song Sparrow 89
Swamp Sparrow 2
sparrow sp. 100
Bobolink 15
Red-winged Blackbird 1751
Western Meadowlark 32
Yellow-headed Blackbird 3802
Brewer’s Blackbird 226
Common Grackle 543
Brown-headed Cowbird 44
Orchard Oriole 4
Baltimore Oriole 6
blackbird sp. 520
American Goldfinch 86
House Sparrow 80
TOTAL 80691

Finally, thank to all our volunteers, in my particular order:

Colin Blyth and Gillian Richards (Caretakers), Cal Cuthbert, Gord Ogilvie, Erica Alex, Jancice Madill, Bryce Hoye (CBC), Dave Warrenchuk (Nature Manitoba video), Lynsay Perkins (Nature Manitoba Communications), Emily McIntosh, Jo Swartz, Betsy Thorsteinson, Garry Budyk, John Weier, Deanna Dodgson, Katharine Schulz, Donna Martin, Linda Curtis, Luc Blanchette, Bill Rideout, Glennis Lewis, Linda Boys, Louanne Reid and Bonnie Chartier.


Photo copyright Garry Budyk