Manitoba Shorebird Conservation, Management, and Monitoring Workshop Day 1

Manitoba Shorebird Conservation, Management, and Monitoring Workshop Day 1

On Wednesday May 23rd 2018, organizations, biologists, and volunteers met on an impressive Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) property named Jiggen’s Bluff to kick-start a two and a half day Shorebird workshop. The MB Shorebird Conservation, Management, and Monitoring Workshop was organized by the Manitoba Important Bird Area (IBA) program, Manomet Shorebird Recovery Program and NCC, bringing together around 25 participants. A few main objectives of the workshop were to work on shorebird identification, connect shorebirds migrating/using the Central Flyway, address threats, and establish a long-term International Shorebird Survey (ISS) in Manitoba.

A Scarlet Tanager quickly became the unofficial mascot of the Manitoba IBA program shorebird workshop at Jiggen’s Bluff as he was singing loud and clear upon opening the car doors. The workshop was broken into classroom time where we spent the first half of the morning focusing on shorebird identification, life histories, and habitat requirements followed by field time to work on shorebird identification and accurate surveying (i.e. counting all birds in a given area).

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Scarlet Tanager singing high in the tops of the conifer trees. Copyright Christian Artuso.

Presentations on the local area such as Jiggen’s Bluff were done by Kevin Teneycke from NCC explaining Manitoba has nine priority landscapes with the Souris River Valley being one of them. Tim Poole from the IBA program showed important changes that two IBAs (Whitewater Lake and The Oak-Plum Lakes) in Manitoba have gone through over the years due to variable weather conditions and the huge importance of these areas for supporting hundreds of thousands migratory shorebirds. For example, Manitoba has one of the largest colonies of Western Grebe and have seen up to 4.3% of the global population of Eared Grebes on migration. Monica Iglecia from Manomet discussed the different areas that their shorebird program focuses on, the many habitats that shorebirds can occupy (i.e. shallow water, open landscapes with short grassed areas), and how a network of people (citizen scientists) can help!


Nature Conservancy of Canada Jiggen’s Bluff property. Copyright Sabina Mastrolonardo.

Robert Penner from Kansas, Texas introduced what a WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) site is and the importance of the Central Flyway to 65% of shorebirds who use it and are connecting us all. Brad Winn from Manomet dove into shorebird life history and how there are 222 shorebird species worldwide and North Americas supports 51 breeding species (23%). Brian Harrington presented on the limited reproduction in shorebirds as most species only lay a maximum of four eggs which is even lower in temperate regions, and how many adult shorebirds must lay approximately 200 eggs in their lifetime to replace itself. Monica then finished up the morning presentations talking about food resources for shorebirds (i.e. annelids, molluscs, arthropods, and even biofilm). One key take-away message was that conservation starts with you! The individual which adds up to meaningful change protecting shorebirds from the Arctic all the way down to South America.

Brad Winn provided quick key features, size differences, and behaviours for the shorebirds we could potentially see out in the field, such as the Dowitcher feeding straight down or Greater Yellowlegs with its bill being longer in comparison to the head. The group piled into a bus all together and off we were approximately 20 minutes away in and around wetland and upland habitats in the Oak-Plum Lakes region to I.D shorebirds in the field.

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Workshop participants hard at work in the field looking and counting shorebirds. Copyright Christian Artuso.

Shorebirds were not overwhelming at the first site but still plentiful and an especially nice number and ease for those beginner shorebird ID’ers. The challenging peeps were identified to be 12 White-rumped Sandpipers, 9 Baird’s Sandpiper, 3 Least Sandpipers, and 5 Semipalmated Sandpiper. In addition there were 8 American Avocets, 3 Willet, 3 Marbled Godwits, 7 Stilt Sandpipers, and 6 Pectoral Sandpipers. About half way through the identification session, majority of the shorebirds flew up from the water in a whimsical motion all together avoiding a predation attempt, long before we could identify a Sharp-shinned Hawk flying overhead. Furthermore, we ID’ed 5 Wilson’s Phalarope and 9 Red-necked Phalarope before moving onto another body of water to spot 1 Trumpeter Swan and 1 Sanderling. A very successful first field day with lots more planned for the next couple days.

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Shorebird flock in flight including species such as, RNPH, WIPH, LBDO, DUNL, STSA, WRSA and SESA. Copyright Christian Artuso.

Before calling day one quits, a group of us drove to the town of Souris for some Chimney Swift monitoring. After about an hour and half of monitoring chimneys and being somewhat harassed by wild Indian domestic Peafowl squawking in the town, many more Chimney Swifts were discovered than previously thought! Three known roosts in Souris with 19 Chimney Swifts seen using eight different chimneys equaling a whole lot of activity!


One out of five Indian domestic peafowl wild in the town of Souris and being somewhat of a bother during Chimney Swift monitoring. Copyright Sabina Mastrolonardo.


By the end of the two and half days, the group saw 26 shorebird species including an astonishing banded (leg-flagged) Red knot and over 160 bird species in total!

A Morning at Oak Hammock Marsh Celebrating International Migratory Bird Day

On May 12th, Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Center celebrated International Migratory Bird Day. Tim Poole and Lynnea Parker helped lead a morning bird walk with Paula Grieef from Oak Hammock Marsh and Dr. Christian Artuso from Bird Studies Canada.

In total, 40 members of the public attended this successful event. 39 different species were observed, including 8 species of waterfowl and 8 species of shorebird. We had several birding scopes set up during this event to provide participants with close-up views of the various species. One of the more noteworthy shorebirds seen was the Least Sandpiper. 24 of these little peeps were spotted running up and down the muddy flats at the front pond to the Interpretive Centre and other locations around the marsh (photo below).

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Least Sandpiper foraging for food at Oak Hammock Marsh, photo by Lynnea A. Parker

13 Wilson’s Phalarope (photo below) were seen swimming in circles, a behaviour which  is unique to the Phalarope family. Phalaropes swim in tight circles in order to stir the water and snatch aquatic bugs which ascend to the surface.

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Wilson’s Phalarope foraging, photo by Christian Artuso

Marbled Godwits provided the biggest show of the morning, getting up to, what can only be described as ‘a bit of springtime business’.

Thank you to Oak Hammock Marsh for hosting, and for the large numbers of people who came to make this a successful morning out.

Complete list of species seen during the morning bird walk:

Species Number
Canada Goose 18
Tundra Swan 16
Blue-winged Teal 14
Northern Shoveler 9
Mallard 21
Green-winged Teal 18
Ring-necked Duck 6
Lesser Scaup 7
Horned Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Northern Harrier 1
Virginia Rail 1
Sora 1
American Coot 7
Killdeer 4
Marbled Godwit 3
Least Sandpiper 24
Wilson’s Phalarope 13
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 2
Lesser Yellowlegs 4
Ring-billed Gull 6
Forster’s Tern 3
Common Raven 1
Purple Martin 8
Tree Swallow 12
Barn Swallow 5
American Robin 3
Palm Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 4
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 3
Yellow-headed Blackbird 9
Red-winged Blackbird 40
Brown-headed Blackbird 4
Common Grackle 8

Two IBA Events Announced!

The Manitoba IBA Program is involved in organising two upcoming blitzes, one at Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA and the other, a morning bird survey blitz with NCC at East Shoal Lake. Posters are attached, but here are some details

Oak Lake and Plum Lakes, June 3rd

Oak Lake is one of Manitoba’s premier places for grassland and wetland birds. Huge numbers of waterbirds breed in the area. We recently recommended to the IBA Canada Program a change in the boundary to take in the Maple Lakes and Pipestone areas. There is a huge colony of Franklin’s Gulls in the Maple Lakes, at least 50,000 noted by provinical biologist Ken De Smet in 2017, and we would love to get an estimate of numbers in 2018. There are also grassland birds around Pipestone and along the west of the lake, shorebirds around the Plum Lakes, and Red-headed Woodpeckers in various places. Basically, this place is a gem!


East Shoal Lake, June 9th

We will be surveying areas in and around the NCC’s East Shoal Lake property on June 9th. We will focus on Species At Risk. This will take the form of a smaller, more localised blitz, with the focus on locating threatened species. There might be some early, early morning surveys looking for such glories as Yellow Rail and Least Bittern, but this will be confirmed later on once we have scoped the status of the habitats. Unlike other IBA blitzes, this will involve more footwork, walking on tracks.

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If you are interested in any of this, please email  and we will get you signed up!

North, West, and East Shoal Lakes IBA Bird Blitz

On Sunday, May 6th, 14 birders split into 4 groups and covered over 177 km of the North, West, and East Shoal Lakes IBA (IBA map). With a late start to spring this year we were not sure what to expect in terms of species diversity and numbers. On Saturday, the day before the blitz, Tim Poole and Lynnea Parker noted that ice coverage on Lake Manitoba was still quite extensive at Sandy Bay Marshes IBA near Langruth. Lynnea was therefore glad to observe that West and East Shoal Lakes were mostly ice-free. North Shoal Lake was partially open along the roadsides and marshes.

122 species were observed in the morning with good numbers of waterfowl and grebes. Group 1 with Pierre, Bill, Wally, and William were particularly fond of the 171 American Robins and 159 Red-winged Blackbirds they thoroughly counted. However, the robins and blackbirds paled in comparison to the 611 Western Grebes which were spotted rafting together at West Shoal Lake (Group 1 checklist).

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View of West Shoal Lake with a large number of Western Grebes rafting in the distance, photo by Pierre Richard

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Western Grebe, photo by William Rideout

At the Sandy Bay Grebe Watch event on May 5th, Tim and Lynnea had been hoping to see several hundred Western Grebes. Due to the heavy ice cover, only 112 Western Grebes were counted. It would seem our missing Grebes were over at West Shoal Lake instead! A further 500 were spotted by Bob Jones at Delta Marsh the previous day.

Group 2 with Jo, Betsy, Christian, and Mohammad surveyed the east side of East and North Shoal Lakes. Christian turned back the clock and took up his Atlas nickname ‘Moose Legs’, walking the rejuvenated wetland also known as PR415, which runs between North and East Shoal Lakes (Christian’s Checklist). The decommissioned, and partially flooded road was highly productive with 94 species, including high counts of waterfowl, Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Gulls, and Blackbirds. Unfortunately for Christian, he missed the Snowy Egret spied by Group #4 which was found on the same decommissioned road just outside his survey area to the west. Group #4 didn’t feel bad however, as Christian managed to find a Clark’s Grebe which they didn’t see. Photos below feature a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs (upper left), pair of Canvasbacks (middle left), flock of American White Pelicans (lower left), and a Marbled Godwit preening (right) (photos by Christian Artuso). (Additional checklists for this group: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5)



Group 3 with Joanne, Richard, Louise, and Eric surveyed the IBA area north of North Shoal Lake. They had many species of waterbirds despite having less open water in their area. Good sights from Group 3 included 4 Trumpeter Swans, 18 Red-necked Grebes, and 1 Semipalmated Plover (Checklist). The photos below by Joanne Smith include Red-necked Grebe (Left) and Willet (Right).



Group 4 with Lynnea, Cam, and Jeff surveyed the northern part of West Shoal Lake, west side of East Shoal Lake, and west side of North Shoal Lake. The highlights from this group included a Snowy Egret, good numbers of Green-winged Teal and Blue-winged Teal, and 11 Great Egret. Access to the open water was limited, but the marshy areas were moderately productive. Photos below were taken by Cam Nikkel and feature a Forster’s Tern (Left) and a Great Egret (Right).



Overall, highlights of the day included: 13 Greater White-fronted Goose, 766 Western Grebe, 1 Clark’s Grbe, 490 American White Pelican, 6 American Bittern, 32 Great Egret, 1 Snowy Egret, 3 Black-crowned Night-Heron, 116 Sandhill Crane, and 58 Bonaparte’s Gull.

After the morning blitz everyone gathered at Rosie’s Cafe in Inwood for a glorious lunch before wrapping up the event.

Compiled IBA Event Checklist:

Snow Goose 1,455
Ross’s Goose 8
Greater White-fronted Goose 13
Cackling Goose 9
Canada Goose 1,554
Trumpeter Swan 8
Tundra Swan 99
Wood Duck 2
Blue-winged Teal 340
Northern Shoveler 73
Gadwall 59
American Wigeon 26
Mallard 591
Northern Pintail 42
Green-winged Teal 428
Canvasback 662
Redhead 75
Ring-necked Duck 145
Greater Scaup 7
Lesser Scaup 313
Greater/Lesser Scaup 4
Bufflehead 31
Common Goldeneye 17
Hooded Merganser 4
Common Merganser 18
Red-breasted Merganser 8
Ruddy Duck 19
Ruffed Grouse 1
Sharp-tailed Grouse 1
Common Loon 15
Pied-billed Grebe 45
Horned Grebe 56
Red-necked Grebe 36
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 766
Clark’s Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 479
American White Pelican 490
American Bittern 6
Great Blue Heron 14
Great Egret 32
Snowy Egret 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 2
Northern Harrier 11
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 15
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 17
Virginia Rail 3
Sora 3
American Coot 537
Sandhill Crane 116
American Avocet 8
Semipalmated Plover 1
Killdeer 41
Marbled Godwit 19
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Wilson’s Snipe 52
Wilson’s Phalarope 7
Greater Yellowlegs 22
Willet 23
Lesser Yellowlegs 114
Bonaparte’s Gull 58
Franklin’s Gull 1,305
Ring-billed Gull 2,802
Herring Gull 102
gull sp. 742
Caspian Tern 3
Common Tern 3
Forster’s Tern 173
Mourning Dove 15
Belted Kingfisher 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 31
Downy Woodpecker 3
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 28
Pileated Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 6
Merlin 4
Eastern Phoebe 9
Blue Jay 6
Black-billed Magpie 25
American Crow 13
Common Raven 15
Tree Swallow 98
Barn Swallow 35
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Marsh Wren 23
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7
Eastern Bluebird 4
Hermit Thrush 4
American Robin 208
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 15
American Pipit 5
Orange-crowned Warbler 6
Palm Warbler 6
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
LeConte’s Sparrow 2
American Tree Sparrow 2
Chipping Sparrow 1
Clay-colored Sparrow 6
Lark Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 9
Harris’s Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 7
Vesper Sparrow 3
Savannah Sparrow 53
Song Sparrow 115
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 52
Yellow-headed Blackbird 665
Western Meadowlark 23
Red-winged Blackbird 2,676
Brown-headed Cowbird 54
Rusty Blackbird 104
Brewer’s Blackbird 32
Common Grackle 115
Purple Finch 1

Sandy Bay Grebe Watch

On Saturday, May 5th we held a Grebe Watch event at the Sandy Bay Marshes IBA. The Sandy Bay Marshes are located along the western shoreline of Lake Manitoba, just east of Langruth and Sandy Bay First Nation (Map). This IBA is known for its large concentrations of Western Grebes in the spring, with 500-1000 breeding pairs recorded in 1986! The purpose of this event was to see if Western Grebes (and other Grebes) were present and document their numbers.

On Friday, May 4th Tim Poole (IBA Coordinator) noted that the bays along the shoreline of Lake Manitoba were still heavily covered in ice. In light of the bays being covered in ice, the Grebe Watch was cancelled for individuals who had signed up from afar, such as Winnipeg. The event went ahead for local residents. The cold start to spring this year has seemingly delayed spring migration for many species of waterbirds.

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Hollywood Beach, Sandy Bay Marshes. Photo by Lynnea A. Parker

It was a successful turnout with 8 people from the community and 1 person from Winnipeg joining us at Hollywood Beach. We started off the morning by gathering on the main beach and scanning for waterbirds. Tim and Lynnea Parker (IBA Assistant) set up spotting scopes to show the public a variety of species, including Western Grebe, Tundra Swan, Redhead, Canvasback, Bonaparte’s Gull, Common Tern, and Marbled Godwit.


Western Grebe, Photo by Tim Poole

As anticipated, the Western Grebes were present in the IBA, but not in the high numbers we were initially hoping to see. We suspect the cold weather and ice along the shoreline was a contributing factor to the low numbers. In total, we recorded 70 species of birds including 112 Western Grebe. At the end of this blog post there is a  list of species which were detected.

We would like to thank everyone who did attend the Grebe Watch event, and we hope this opportunity has encouraged more people to take an interest in monitoring and reporting birds within the Sandy Bay Marshes.

Species Detected (70 Total)

24        Canada Goose

35        Tundra Swan

150      Blue-winged Teal

1          Northern Shoveler

26        Gadwall

12        American Wigeon

54        Mallard

6          Northern Pintail

280      Green-winged Teal

16        Redhead

8          Ring-necked Duck

34        Lesser Scaup

6          Bufflehead

4          Common Goldeneye

8          Common Merganser

1          Red-breasted Merganser

3          Ruddy Duck

6          Common Loon

3          Red-necked Grebe

112      Western Grebe

46        Double-crested Cormorant

18        American White Pelican

3          American Bittern

1          Turkey Vulture

4          Northern Harrier

2          Bald Eagle

2          Broad-winged Hawk

6          Red-tailed Hawk

2          Rough-legged Hawk

1          Virginia Rail

1          Sora

8          American Coot

12        Sandhill Crane

12        Killdeer

6          Marbled Godwit

3          Willet

9          Lesser Yellowlegs

6          Bonaparte’s Gull

4          Franklin’s Gull

16        Ring-billed Gull

2          Herring Gull

74        Common Tern

45        Rock Pigeon

2          Mourning Dove

4          Northern Flicker

2          American Kestrel

1          Merlin

3          Eastern Phoebe

1          Black-billed Magpie

1          American Crow

3          Common Raven

5          Tree Swallow

12        Barn Swallow

2          Black-capped Chickadee

1          Marsh Wren

1          Swainson’s Thrush

3          Hermit Thrush

2          American Robin

1          European Starling

25        Palm Warbler

6          Dark-eyed Junco

2          White-throated Sparrow

1          Savannah Sparrow

10        Song Sparrow

6          Swamp Sparrow

45        Yellow-headed Blackbird

4          Western Meadowlark

400      Red-winged Blackbird

18        Brewer’s Blackbird

6          Common Grackle

1          Yellow-rumped Warbler