Bird Walk – Jiggin’s Bluff NCC Property, Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA, Saturday 20th May, 10am – 12pm

Oak Lake and Plum Lakes has been recognised internationally as one of the world’s most important places for birds and wildlife. Huge concentrations of birds use this area for feeding during migration including globally important numbers of waterfowl. In addition, the diverse habitats host large numbers of threatened grassland birds, woodland birds and wetland birds. On Saturday May 20th, Manitoba Important Bird area Coordinator Tim Poole will lead a bird walk at the NCC property at Jiggin’s Bluff south of Oak Lake. the walk will start at 10am and will finish around 12pm. Bring sturdy walking shoes and boots and any appropriate clothing for the weather plus water and snacks. If you have binoculars then please also bring them along.

Jiggins Bluff can be reached by:

From Souris

  1. From Souris head west on Highway 2, for 30km, Turn North on Highway 254
  2. Continue north for 2.5 miles (4km) (if you reach the creek you went too far!)
  3. Turn West on the Gravel Road and continue into the yardsite

From Oak Lake Resort

  1. From Oak Lake Beach head East and then South on PR 254
  2. Continue South for 8 km
  3. Turn West on the gravel road just after the bridge, and continue into the yardsite

People can park along the road in the yard

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Sandy Bay Marshes IBA – A Haven for Western Grebes with the Odd Bear Thrown In

Before Friday of last week, Sandy Bay Marshes was one of those places which was familiar merely as a name and a mark on a map. Last Friday while heading north to a meeting near Winnipegosis (more to follow in another blog on that subject), I stopped off for a while to discover what it was about.

Sandy Bay was designated due to significant breeding concentrations of Western Grebe (see the IBA Canada profile for more info). It is a relatively unknown spot on the western shore of Lake Manitoba south of the Sandy Bay First Nation and near Langruth. Access to much of the marsh interior is difficult due to the road network hence the fact that there is very little information generated from this IBA in the past. Part of the IBA is in the Sandy Bay First Nation Reserve and any access taken by volunteers would need prior approval granted by the Band Council, something I had not sought beforehand, hence I did not stray into the First Nation part of the IBA.

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Double-crested Cormorants were fairly abundant around Sandy Bay. Copyright Tim Poole

The surrounding area is primarily tilled agricultural land. However just on the southeastern boundary of the IBA, a few more hayfields and wetlands begin to make an appearance. It was here that I encountered a couple of Marbled Godwit and a number of ducks. The first major stop was at Big Point on the shores of Lake Manitoba. Here I turned up 25 Horned Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, pelicans, cormorants and Common Merganser in addition to a number of other gulls, waterfowl and wetland birds.

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A Bonaparte’s Gull off of Big Point with an American White Pelican relaxing in the water behind. Closer inspection with a scope revealed large numbers of Western Grebe and Horned Grebe in the water around this gull. Copyright Tim Poole

Already it was apparent that this was a special spot for Western Grebe, 94 counted in the waters of Lake Manitoba – and likely more given that there were certainly a number of distant specks in the wider area.

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Panoramic view of Big Point. Copyright Tim Poole

Criss-crossing north, the next stop would be at Stony Point where the only other folk enjoying the sunshine were the RCMP! Before that there was a cracking wetland pool next to the road with 107 Western Grebe. Also present were 2 Eared Grebe. Already it was apparent that if this one pool had upwards of a hundred birds, how many more would be hidden in the inaccessible parts of the marsh?

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Unfortunately all the grebes, although plentiful, seemed to avoid getting too close to the road restricting photographic possibilities. This is the best I could manage! Copyright Tim Poole

Finally to the small beach at Stony Point. There were a couple of American Bittern in the adjacent marsh, White-throated Sparrow, Hermit Thrush and juncos in the trees and a huge abundance of Western Grebes bobbing around in the water. In fact there 522 floating around the bay. This is around 0.25% of the global breeding population of this species – not bad for a single point count. There were also 10 Common Merganser and the usual pelicans and cormorants.

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There’s probably over a hundred Western Grebes here somewhere. Copyright Tim Poole

Canada Goose 2
Gadwall 4
American Wigeon 2
Mallard 32
Blue-winged Teal 21
Northern Shoveler 2
Canvasback 12
Redhead 29
Greater Scaup 5
Lesser Scaup 4
Greater/Lesser Scaup 53
Bufflehead 3
Common Goldeneye 32
Common Merganser 11
Ruddy Duck 2
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Horned Grebe 25
Eared Grebe 2
Western Grebe 723
Double-crested Cormorant 106
American White Pelican 35
American Bittern 2
Northern Harrier 4
Red-tailed Hawk 3
American Coot 3
Killdeer 4
Marbled Godwit 4
Wilson’s Snipe 1
Willet 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 10
Franklin’s Gull 48
Ring-billed Gull 49
Forster’s Tern 4
Rock Pigeon 4
Mourning Dove 1
Northern Flicker 1
Black-billed Magpie 3
Common Raven 1
Tree Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 1
Hermit Thrush 1
Dark-eyed Junco 10
White-throated Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 10
Red-winged Blackbird 53
Western Meadowlark 1
Yellow-headed Blackbird 14
Brewer’s Blackbird 69
Common Grackle 20
Brown-headed Cowbird 1

On leaving the IBA, I headed across towards Langruth and Big Grass Marsh, skirting the edge of that IBA. This is another interesting area if only you can get into it, and I plan to find a way to do just that later in the season, so please watch this space. The one thing that did pop up was a Black Bear loitering at the back of a field.

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Immediately after checking me out, this bear ran off into the bush. Obviously knows who is boss! Copyright Tim Poole 

The Sandy Bay trip makes me realise that we still need to explore some of these areas more fully. I have attached a copy of may route through the IBA below to help anyone else exploring this area. I wonder if monitoring post breeding populations is possible given that we located over 2000 Western Grebes gathered around Whitewater Lake in early August 2016. Food for thought!

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Whitewater Lake IBA – Garry Budyk and John Weier Trip List and Photos

Ahead of the coming IBA blitz at Whitewater Lake, it feels like a good time to remind people just how special this place is for migrating birds, especially those boreal, tundra and High Arctic shorebirds. Garry Budyk and John Weier have been busy and sent in another report, this time from Whitewater Lake IBA. This time they clocked a mere 17 species of shorebirds on May 8th including an impressive 200 Pectoral Sandpipers. Hopefully next weekend, 13 days later on the 21st May, we will have larger numbers and more species as the migration season reaches its peak.

All photos below are taken by, and copyright of Garry Budyk

Snow Goose, 20

Canada Goose, 21

Wood Duck, 1

Gadwall, 54

American Wigeon, 2

Mallard, 125

Blue-winged Teal, 98

Northern Shoveler, 39

Northern Pintail, 45

Green-winged Teal, 19

Canvasback, 26

Redhead, 79

Ring-necked Duck, 2

Lesser Scaup, 25

Bufflehead, 5

Hooded Merganser, 1

Ruddy Duck, 56

Pied-billed Grebe, 2

Eared Grebe, 12

Western Grebe, 50

Double-crested Cormorant, 14

American White Pelican, 83

Great Blue Heron, 1

Great Egret, 24

GREG - WWL

Cattle Egret, 1

CAEG - WWL

Black-crowned Night-Heron, 4

BCNH - WWL

White-faced Ibis, 16

Turkey Vulture, 1

Osprey, 1

Northern Harrier, 6

Swainson’s Hawk, 1

Red-tailed Hawk, 1

American Coot, 198

American Avocet, 27

Killdeer, 11

Hudsonian Godwit, 3

HUGO - WWL

Marbled Godwit, 5

Dunlin, 7

DUNL - WWL

Baird’s Sandpiper, 17

BASA - WWL

Least Sandpiper, 6

White-rumped Sandpiper, 3

Pectoral Sandpiper, 200

PESA - WWL

Semipalmated Sandpiper, 1

Short-billed Dowitcher, 7

SBDO - WWL

Wilson’s Phalarope, 9

Spotted Sandpiper, 2

Solitary Sandpiper, 4

SOSA - WWL

Greater Yellowlegs, 4

Willet, 19

Lesser Yellowlegs, 28

Franklin’s Gull, 840

Ring-billed Gull, 4

Herring Gull, 1

Black Tern, 1

Forster’s Tern, 77

Mourning Dove, 16

American Kestrel, 1

Black-billed Magpie, 2

Common Raven, 1

Horned Lark, 5

Tree Swallow, 1

Bank Swallow, 1

Barn Swallow, 18

Cliff Swallow, 1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2

American Robin, 14

European Starling, 1

American Pipit, 2

Orange-crowned Warbler, 2

Yellow-rumped Warbler, 2

Chipping Sparrow, 10

Clay-colored Sparrow, 26

Lark Sparrow, 1

Dark-eyed Junco, 1

White-crowned Sparrow, 15

WCSP - WWL

Harris’s Sparrow, 43

White-throated Sparrow, 5

Vesper Sparrow, 6

Savannah Sparrow, 27

Song Sparrow, 10

Swamp Sparrow, 1

Red-winged Blackbird, 220

Western Meadowlark, 6

Yellow-headed Blackbird, 507

Brewer’s Blackbird, 33

Common Grackle, 68

Brown-headed Cowbird, 21

House Sparrow, 3

Finally, Garry sent a photo of the current status of the track leading to the viewing mound on the south of the lake. The high spring water levels and incredibly strong winds continue to cause erosion and have pretty much rendered access impossible now – be warned!

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