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!

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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!

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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.

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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!