Whitewater Lake IBA – The Sunday Shorebird Blitz, 21st May 2017

Following the Oak Lake blitz was the Sunday Whitewater extravaganza. As expected for a fabulous birdwatching area such as Whitewater Lake, the overall bird list was long and included some real gems. In total 28 species of shorebird were recorded, an impressive total. 19 people came along for the day, an what a day it was as well! The lake water levels were very high but the birds still concentrate in huge numbers.

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Wilson’s Phalarope were one of the more abundant shorebirds at Whitewater. Copyright Aaron Mooi

The western group, including Tim Poole, Patricia Rosa, Jen Wasko and the star of the team, 6 year old Anna Wasko, never managed to find the lake but did find an impressive 21 species of shorebird in the ephemeral wetlands and potholes. Included in this total was a single Whimbrel picked up in the scope at distance (‘I know my Curlews’ said he). Anna was the blackbird and shoveller counter (she seemed to have a special affinity for shovellers). In total there were 52 Shovellers, 287 Yellow-headed Blackbird and 900 Red-winged Blackbird in this area, so she obviously has very good arithmetic! Other highlights included a single Hudwit (Hudsonian Godwit for the non-Brits), great views of Red-necked Phalarope and a poser of an Upland Sandpiper.


Poser! Upland Sandpiper, copyright Tim Poole

Along the south of Whitewater Lake, Bonnie Chartier, Glennis Lewis and Liz Shewchuk managed to record 74 species including half a dozen Cattle Egret and 150 Western Grebe. On the raptor front, they also managed to get a late view of a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

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The stunning Western Grebe at Whitewater. Photo copyright Aaron Mooi

Birding along the western edge, Pat and Dave Wally were joined by Lynnea Parker. This area covers not just the western shoreline, with some interesting roads, but also a large number of potholes and ephemeral wetlands. These areas can be incredibly rich for birds. Among the highlights were a Stilt Sandpiper among the 12 species of shorebird and very good numbers of both Western and Eared Grebe, plus smaller numbers of Horned and Red-necked Grebe.

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The handsome Eared Grebe in its full glory. Photo copyright Aaron Mooi

The north of Whitewater was split between our caretakers Colin and Gillian. Colin was joined by Louanne Reid and lucked out with both Clark’s Grebe and Glossy Ibis, two rare species for Manitoba. Colin’s eBird notes say that:

‘On arrival at 6.15 a.m. and before the count began we heard or saw four Black-Crowned Night Herons, a Peregrine Falcon, White-faced Ibis, American Bittern and a Willet–a clue that today was going to be another good one at Whitewater.  Other wildlife observed: deer, fox squirrel, mosquitoes, wood ticks and other insects.’

They managed to find 262 Western Grebe, another 6 Cattle Egret, 18 species of shorebird and a couple of Peregrine. Of the shorebirds, most impressive were the large concentrations of Black-belled Plover, 191 in total. They also noted 100 Dunlin, 85 Ruddy Turnstone and a single each of Red Knot and Sanderling.


Clark’s (left) and Western (right) Grebe’s. Close-up of Clark’s to follow…. Photo copyright Gillian Richards

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Clark’s Grebe – notice the black cap does not extend below the eye. The back is also greyer than Western Grebe and the flanks paler. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

West of Colin and Louanne, Gillian was joined by the Barclay’s, Ken, Colleen and Dan, for the morning. As well as a stunning show from a Black-crowned Night Heron (see below), these guys really lucked out on the Black-bellied Plover, a total of 340 spread across several flocks. This species, a High Arctic breeder, is often synonymous with shorter grassland habitats during migration.

This Black-crowned Night Heron was really showing off! Photos copyright Gillian Richards

The eastern edge of the IBA was surveyed by Christian Artuso, Randy Mooi, Curator of Zoology at the Manitoba Museum, Aaron Mooi and Emily MacKintosh. Another Clark’s Grebe was detected at this end of the IBA. Franklin’s Gulls, over 4,500, were extremely numerous. A Prairie Falcon and a Snowy Egret also put in an appearance.

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This Franklin’s Gull almost appears to be levitating! Photo copyright Aaron Mooi

This group also scored 377 Western Grebe, a not too shabby 122 White-faced Ibis, 5 Red Knot, 422 White-rumped Sandpiper and a California Gull bringing a total of 88 species.

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The Snowy Egret fleeing the blitzers! Copyright Aaron Mooi

So to our final scores, we recorded a total of 136 species and 23,423 species. The most numerous species was the Franklin’s Gull with 5,561 individuals counted – probably an underestimate of the total. There were impressive numbers of Western Grebe, White-rumped Sandpiper and Black-bellied Sandpiper as well. Even the Snow Geese stayed for the fun! Mallard were unsurprisingly the most numerous duck, followed by Northern Pintail. White-faced Ibis also numbered at least 225, less than the August count but still very impressive. Here is the final list:

Snow Goose                                    324


It was a slightly surprising to turn around and see this lone Snow Goose sitting in an empty tilled field. Photo copyright Tim Poole

Ross’s Goose                                   1

Canada Goose                                742

Wood Duck                                      1

Gadwall                                             380

American Wigeon                         46

Mallard                                              849

Blue-winged Teal                          363

Northern Shoveler                       474

Northern Pintail                             510

Green-winged Teal                       59

Canvasback                                     98

Redhead                                           397

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Redheads, copyright Aaron Mooi

Ring-necked Duck                         1

Lesser Scaup                                   64

Bufflehead                                      11

Hooded Merganser                      1

Ruddy Duck                                     373

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Ruddy Duck pair. Copyright Aaron Mooi

Pied-billed Grebe                          20

Horned Grebe                                3

Red-necked Grebe                       5

Eared Grebe                                   312

Western Grebe                              1,004

Clark’s Grebe                                  2

Double-crested Cormorant       19


American White Pelican             100

American Bittern                           22

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Not sure if there’s a bird here or not? If it is a bird, then it must be an American Bittern. Copyright Aaron Mooi

Great Blue Heron                          6

Great Egret                                      32

Snowy Egret                                    2

Cattle Egret                                     14

Black-crowned Night-Heron     77

Glossy Ibis                                        1

White-faced Ibis                            225

White-faced Ibis taking off best R crop

Wow! Copyright Aaron Mooi

Turkey Vulture                               2

Northern Harrier                           11

Sharp-shinned Hawk                   1

Swainson’s Hawk                           11

Red-tailed Hawk                            10

Virginia Rail                                      5

Sora                                                    29

American Coot                               1,547

American Avocet                           169

Video taken by Tim Poole of an American Avocet at Whitewater

Black-bellied Plover                      544

American Golden-Plover           4

Semipalmated Plover                  26

Killdeer                                              144

Upland Sandpiper                         10

Whimbrel                                         1

Hudsonian Godwit                        1

Marbled Godwit                            13

Ruddy Turnstone                          89

Red Knot                                           6

Stilt Sandpiper                               10

Sanderling                                        1

Dunlin                                                157

Baird’s Sandpiper                          139

Least Sandpiper                             233

White-rumped Sandpiper         543

Pectoral Sandpiper                       57

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Copyright Aaron Mooi

Semipalmated Sandpiper          91

peep sp.                                            1

Short-billed Dowitcher                5

Wilson’s Snipe                                12

Wilson’s Phalarope                       422

Red-necked Phalarope               11

Spotted Sandpiper                       4

Solitary Sandpiper                        1

Greater Yellowlegs                       3

Willet                                                 38

Willet R crop

Copyright Aaron Mooi

Lesser Yellowlegs                          7

shorebird sp.                                   100

Bonaparte’s Gull                            10

Franklin’s Gull                                 5,561

Ring-billed Gull                               24

California Gull                                 1

Herring Gull                                     1

Caspian Tern                                   8

Black Tern                                        102

Common Tern                                20

Forster’s Tern                                 230

Rock Pigeon                                    35

Eurasian Collared-Dove              4

Mourning Dove                              88

Great Horned Owl                         2

Hairy Woodpecker                       3

Northern Flicker                            5

Merlin                                                2

Peregrine Falcon                           2

Prairie Falcon                                  1

Least Flycatcher                             10

Eastern Phoebe                             1

Say’s Phoebe                                  2

Western Kingbird                          16

Eastern Kingbird                            20

Warbling Vireo                               5

Blue Jay                                             2

Black-billed Magpie                      3

American Crow                              16

Common Raven                             6

Horned Lark                                     24

Tree Swallow                                  159

Bank Swallow                                 47

Barn Swallow                                  182

Cliff Swallow                                   395

Black-capped Chickadee            1

House Wren                                    12

Sedge Wren                                    10

Marsh Wren                                    37

Swainson’s Thrush                        3

American Robin                             59

Gray Catbird                                    3

Brown Thrasher                             2

European Starling                          56

Common Yellowthroat                1

Yellow Warbler                              26

Yellow-rumped Warbler             8

Le Conte’s Sparrow                      2

Nelson’s Sparrow                          1

Chipping Sparrow                         8

Clay-colored Sparrow                  60

Harris’s Sparrow                            1

Vesper Sparrow                             25

Savannah Sparrow                        89

Song Sparrow                                 88

Song Sparrow R crop

Copyright Aaron Mooi

Lincoln’s Sparrow                          1

Swamp Sparrow                            1

Bobolink                                           21

Red-winged Blackbird                 2,167

Western Meadowlark                 83

Yellow-headed Blackbird           2,062

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Copyright Aaron Mooi

Brewer’s Blackbird                        80

Common Grackle                          269

Brown-headed Cowbird             192

Orchard Oriole                               2

Baltimore Oriole                            6

American Goldfinch                     43

House Sparrow                              21

Moose                                              1


She’s hiding behind the goose! A moose in a field just outside Boissevain. Copyright Tim Poole

Highlights for Whitewater Lake IBA Blitz: