A Day of Champions at the Riverton Sandy Bar IBA

Tim Poole gives an overview of the second weed pull at Sandy Bar in 2017

Absolutely amazing turnout again – that was my first reaction as I drove along the track towards the parking lot at Sandy Bar on Friday September 29th. There were vehicles parked up on both sides of the track as the parking lot overflowed. I was a few minutes late having been delayed in Gimli collecting some snacks and coffee – and with Ward Christianson, showing young Josiah Van Egmond his lifer Ross’s Goose near the Icelandic Museum. An early success for the morning.

Following out first previous weed pull there has been a multitude of shorebird sightings on Sandy Bar. Maybe the work is already beginning to bear fruit?


American Golden Plovers on the waters edge. This is one of a number of shorebird species which have been using Sandy Bar in the month and a half since the previous weed pull. Copyright Joanne Smith

Joanne gave a briefing in the parking lot -while distributing her excellent array of baking. Anyone who knows Joanne will know that she has a wicked sense of humour. On this occasion she added in

‘I will now pass across to Tim for some more sophisticated words’.

Eek! I stumbled through a few garbled, unsophisticated sentences and then sending everyone on their way to the bar. Thanks Joanne!

We had around 32 volunteers join us this time, not bad for a morning in late September. Not only did we have some IBA regulars and Nature Manitoba stalwarts, to representatives of the East Interlake Conservation District and a mass of Riverton locals.


Team photo taken during the weed pull. Copyright Joanne Smith

Reaching the weed pulling area took varying amounts of time depending on peoples personal interests. What this means is that in general the birders took a lot longer than everyone else!


Customary shot of a stream of people making their way to the end of Sandy Bar. Copyright Joanne Smith

Our first task was to show everyone the primary target species, the invasive white sweet clover. This provided an opportunity to describe the ongoing conservation situation with Sandy Bar and the need to continue to attack the weeds on the bar to create more habitat for breeding and migrating birds. While pulling conversation inevitably turned to how we could make things easier for ourselves. Suggestions included using round-up (not on a Special Conservation Area out in the lake), a propane tank with a flame thrower attached (could be fun but there may be some possible issues with setting fire to an entire sandbar) and using goats. The favourite among pretty much all present was using a goat with a flame thrower fitted to its back. Back on Planet Earth, it was explained to people that due to various environmental, health and safety issues, the only realistic way to remove the weeds was good old fashioned people power.


Goat, flamethrower or hand pulling? Volunteers get ready to vote. Copyright Tim Poole

Joanne had also set up a visit from the local Riverton High School students led by teacher Don Bodnarus. Midway through the morning she met the first group off the bus at the parking lot and took them on a short walk, explaining to everyone about the importance of Sandy Bar and the weed pull. In total 25 students and 3 adults came from the school and each picked at least a few weeds as time was short. Maybe next year we can have them out for a longer period of time!


Students making their way onto Sandy Bar. Copyright Joanne Smith

As the title suggests though, this piece is really about a few conservation champions who helped to make this day possible. Firstly all the volunteers who turned out on both weed pulls. Thank you everyone.


Busy finding that final weed…..another one of our terrific volunteers. Copyright Tim Poole

Second, to Louise Buelow-Smith and Eric Smith. Earlier in the week they visited Rona and Gimli and persuaded the manager to part with 10 pairs of workers gloves and 50 yard waste bags. Thank you both and thank you Rona in Gimli!

Third, to local resident Thor Johannson. Thor has been absolutely incredible recruiting local volunteer help leading to huge support in both 2017 workparties. He also contacted other local groups including the local Friendship Centre and even a local Don Balinski to potentially remove the bags by boat or ATV. Thanks Thor!

Finally, to Joanne Smith, Caretaker for Riverton Sandy Bar, who is doing an amazing job organising these weed pulls and raising awareness of the area across the local community. Joanne is a tremendous asset to the Manitoba IBA Program!


In total over 50 bags were filled. Joanne filled this many herself. Copyright Tim Poole

Thank you everyone!


The only photo I could find where Bonnie Chartier is not birdwatching! Copyright Tim Poole

As ever, we finish with a bird list. Joanne shared the following on eBird:

Snow Goose 67
Canada Goose 273
Mallard 10
White-winged Scoter 7
Double-crested Cormorant 6
Great Blue Heron 1
Northern Harrier 2
Bald Eagle 1
Black-bellied Plover 10
American Golden-Plover 2
Ruddy Turnstone 3
Sanderling 64
Dunlin 2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 6
Ring-billed Gull 137
Herring Gull 2
Great Horned Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Merlin 1
Common Raven 20
Horned Lark 6
Black-capped Chickadee 2
American Pipit 9
Lapland Longspur 65
Snow Bunting 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Swamp Sparrow 4
Rusty Blackbird 19
American Goldfinch 3

Another of the shorebirds on Sandy Bar. This time a Ruddy Turnstone. Copyright Joanne Smith