Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA Blitz – 20th May 2017

On May 20th, 15 volunteers descended on Oak Lake for a blitz of the Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA. The following blog comes in three parts. In the first Patricia Rosa gives her account of the day monitoring with Lynnea Parker and Tim Poole. 

Our crew’s Oak Lake/Plum Lakes IBA Blitzing adventures started in the early hours of the morning with a nice pre-sunrise drive from Winnipeg. On our way, we got to see a surprisingly large Wild Turkey standing just a few feet from the highway (Lynnea’s first lifer of the day)!

Less than 1 km into our survey of the eastern boundary of this IBA, Tim heard a Yellow-throated Vireo. Although they are usually rather difficult to see, we had a great view of this one individual signing atop a tree, showing off his brilliant yellow markings. Our cameras were of course either out of reach, dead, or broken! Later on, we heard Black-and-white Warblers and Cape May Warblers, and saw the bright Eastern Bluebird in flight.

Throughout the morning, the Wilson’s Snipes were very prominent! We spotted a group of 5 nearby the road, and their howls seemed to follow us along our survey transect. We also caught a glimpse of a Sora, and some distant White-faced Ibises (that were not Glossy Ibises to Lynnea’s dismay!).



© Patricia Rosa

In the prairie sites,  Eastern and Western Kingbirds were seen hanging together on fences. The LBS (i.e. Little Brown Sparrows) were out and about, including many Clay-coloured, Savannah, Song, and Vesper Sparrows. Lynnea and I were lucky enough to hear a Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. We also encountered a photogenic Bobolink and got a good look at a Lark Sparrow perched near an agricultural field.


Four other groups were also busy across the IBA. Each group had been designated its own area:


Group number 1 took on the area between Highway 2 and the south of Plum Lakes. Glennis, Linda and Louanne found 62 species including 5 Ruddy Turnstone just south of Jiggin’s Bluff (see below). They also observed some late moving Tundra Swans. Other shorebirds were thinner on the ground but Willet could be located in and around the area.

WiLL in flight Oak Lake May 20 2017 P1310508

Willet over Oak Lake. ©Katharine Schulz Group 1 took on the area between Highway 2 and the south of Plum Lakes. Glennis, Linda, and Louanne found 62 species including 5 Ruddy Turnstone just south of Jiggin’s Bluff (see below). They also observed some late moving Tundra Swans. Other shorebirds were thinner on the ground but could be located in and around the area.

The western grassland areas were covered by the Wally’s, Pat and Dave, and Katharine. Grassland birds still seemed on the low side but they did find a group of 18 Black-bellied Plovers and good numbers of Franklin’s Gulls. The White-faced Ibis, previously only seemingly a specialty of Whitewater Lake also put in an appearance.

Bonnie, Liz and Clay were responsible for a sizable area north of the TransCanada and covering the Assiniboine River Valley. Their highlights were Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Mountain Bluebird.

BBPL 1 Oak Lake May 20 2017 P1310499

The Black-bellied Plovers at Oak Lake. ©Katharine Schulz

WIPH Oak Lake May 20 2017 P1310526

Male Wilson’s Phalarope. ©Katharine Schulz

Finally Ward and Marlene birded a large area around Oak Lake Resort, including the beach and the dam. Wilson’s Phalarope, at least 200 were abundant just to the north of the resort. There were 5 species of grebe in the area (Red-necked, Horned, Eared, Western and Pied-billed). Another notable feature were the large numbers of Franklin’s Gull, at least 1,665. The total species count was 86.

After discussing with the other crews about their notable findings of the day, we all decided to head towards the south of Plum Lake to find Ruddy Turnstones and Black-bellied Plovers. They were not there when we arrived, but we were greeted by a great deal of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Eared Grebes, Common Terns, and American Coots (just to name a few!).


© Patricia Rosa

Eventually, a lone Black-bellied Plover showed up and stood still among a group of bird preening and bathing. Soon after, two Ruddy Turnstones and one Black-bellied Plover flew over the site at which point our lone plover opted to join them, and they were off!

Thank you to all of the BioBlitz volunteers!

Tim Poole now gives an account of a bird walk at the Jiggin’s Bluff NCC property during the course of the morning

First the good news, 17 people turned out for a bird walk with Rebekah Neufeld of NCC and myself on a beautiful sunny day. The bad news is that high lake water levels around Plum Lakes meant that we didn’t quite get the expected bonanza of shorebirds. However we did get some great views of some great birds. There was also a piece in the Virden Empire and the Brandon Sun (see below).Brandon Sun 20 May

Among the highlights were some very showy Bobolink, Baltimore Oriole and numerous ducks including those handsome blue-beaked Ruddy Ducks showing up well in the scope for the children to be able to see. We also had a cacophony of sound to contend with in the ‘bluff’ part of Jiggin’s Bluff, Least Flycatcher, Ovenbird and Rose-breasted Grosbeak among them. Here is the main photo from the Virden Empire:


Thanks to everyone for coming along and for Carleigh and Wayne for providing some local advertising. And of course thanks to NCC and Rebekah for being such great hosts. The final bird totals were added to our daily total which you can see below.

Here’s a summary of what we found:


Species Name                                         Species Count

Snow Goose                                               7

Canada Goose                                           238

Tundra Swan                                              18

Wood Duck                                                 3

Gadwall                                                        66

American Wigeon                                     6

Mallard                                                         292

Blue-winged Teal                                      280

Northern Shoveler                                   102

Northern Pintail                                         5

Green-winged Teal                                  15

Canvasback                                                 212

Redhead                                                      232

Ring-necked Duck                                     38

Lesser Scaup                                               87

Bufflehead                                                  18

Hooded Merganser                                 2

Ruddy Duck                                                 185

Ruffed Grouse                                           1

Wild Turkey                                                1

Pied-billed Grebe                                     8

Horned Grebe                                            4

Red-necked Grebe                                   1

Eared Grebe                                               154

Western Grebe                                         35

Double-crested Cormorant                  1

American White Pelican                         24

American Bittern                                       4

Great Blue Heron                                      8

Black-crowned Night-Heron                 3

White-faced Ibis                                        55

Turkey Vulture                                           7

Northern Harrier                                       8

Sharp-shinned Hawk                               1

Bald Eagle                                                    1

Swainson’s Hawk                                      4

Red-tailed Hawk                                        14

Virginia Rail                                                 2

Sora                                                                71

American Coot                                           231

American Avocet                                      10

Black-bellied Plover                                 19

Killdeer                                                         53

Upland Sandpiper                                     1

Marbled Godwit                                        9

Ruddy Turnstone                                      5

Wilson’s Snipe                                            49

Wilson’s Phalarope                                  253

Spotted Sandpiper                                   5

Willet                                                             7

Franklin’s Gull                                             2,070

Ring-billed Gull                                          1

Black Tern                                                    221

Common Tern                                            13

Forster’s Tern                                             9

Rock Pigeon                                                18

Mourning Dove                                         84

Black-billed Cuckoo                                  2

Great Horned Owl                                    1

Belted Kingfisher                                      1

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker                       11

Downy Woodpecker                               1

Hairy Woodpecker                                   2

Northern Flicker                                        15

American Kestrel                                      2

Least Flycatcher                                        166

Eastern Phoebe                                         9

Great Crested Flycatcher                       5

Western Kingbird                                      22

Eastern Kingbird                                        37

Yellow-throated Vireo                            2

Philadelphia Vireo                                    1

Warbling Vireo                                          41

Blue Jay                                                        8

Black-billed Magpie                                 24

American Crow                                          27

Common Raven                                         16

Horned Lark                                                5

Northern Rough-winged Swallow      2

Purple Martin                                             4

Tree Swallow                                              72

Bank Swallow                                             71

Barn Swallow                                              144

Cliff Swallow                                               380

Black-capped Chickadee                        4

White-breasted Nuthatch                     3

House Wren                                                33

Sedge Wren                                                21

Marsh Wren                                                105

Eastern Bluebird                                        1

Mountain Bluebird                                   8

Swainson’s Thrush                                    2

American Robin                                         140

Gray Catbird                                                25

Brown Thrasher                                         2

European Starling                                     19

Cedar Waxwing                                         3

Ovenbird                                                      4

Black-and-white Warbler                       3

Tennessee Warbler                                 9

Common Yellowthroat                           8

American Redstart                                   2

Cape May Warbler                                   3

Yellow Warbler                                          340

Yellow-rumped Warbler                        8

Wilson’s Warbler                                       1

Le Conte’s Sparrow                                  13

Nelson’s Sparrow                                      1

Chipping Sparrow                                     19

Clay-colored Sparrow                              118

Lark Sparrow                                              7

Harris’s Sparrow                                        1

Vesper Sparrow                                        26

Savannah Sparrow                                   88

Song Sparrow                                             76

Swamp Sparrow                                        15

Rose-breasted Grosbeak                       10

Bobolink                                                       49

Red-winged Blackbird                             2,110

Western Meadowlark                             85

Yellow-headed Blackbird                       847

Rusty Blackbird                                          6

Brewer’s Blackbird                                    83

Common Grackle                                      70

Brown-headed Cowbird                         133

Orchard Oriole                                           1

Baltimore Oriole                                        63

Purple Finch                                                3

Pine Siskin                                                    2

American Goldfinch                                 50

House Sparrow                                          9