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:
In addition a few mammals were spotted out and about around the lake
And to the birds. Here is a quick summary of the totals:
|Group of Birds||Totals|
|Cormorants and Pelicans||1971|
|Gulls and terns||4082|
|All other birds||1391|
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.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:
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.
18 species were counted including a single American Black Duck and 3 Snow Goose. Surprisingly Mallards and Blue-winged Teals were the most numerous.
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.
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.
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.
Here is the total numbers:
|American Black Duck||1|
|dabbling duck sp.||400|
|American White Pelican||1691|
|Great Blue Heron||31|
|American Coot (Red-shielded)||6039|
|Herring Gull (American)||2|
|Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)||127|
|Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)||15|
|Le Conte’s Sparrow||5|
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.