On August 16th 24 volunteers came out to the Riverton Sandy Bar IBA to help clear invasive vegetation from this bird sanctuary, jutting out into Lake Winnipeg. The presence of vegetation on this sand bar has reduced habitat quality over the past 10 years for shorebirds, gulls, and pelicans. In previous years many colonial species had used the IBA for nesting and foraging. In fact, the IBA was originally designated primarily with Piping Plover, a federally and provincially Endangered species, in mind. The annual weed pull events, which were initiated by Joanne Smith in 2016, are geared towards habitat restoration through the manual removal of vegetation (2016 post, 2017 August post, 2017 September post). Our hope is that birds will return to the sand bar to nest, with special considerations for the Piping Plover. An article was written about this event in the Express Weekly News. If you would like to read it, select the August 23rd, 2018 issue and flip to page 3.
On the morning of the 16th, Sabina and myself (Lynnea) (Representatives from the IBA program) drove to Sandy Bar beach from Winnipeg. We were both shocked by how smoky the sky was as we approached Gimli, which had been cast in an dark yellow haze from forest fires in British Columbia (reminded me of a post-apocalyptic movie!). The smoke in Winnipeg had been much less pronounced. By the time we arrived in Riverton the air quality had improved considerably, but the smoke did remain over the whole region. On a more positive note, the smoke likely played a role in lowering the overall day-time temperatures. It turned out to be a great day for such an event, with a mild wind and roughly 20 degrees.
At 9:00am we had muffins and donuts at the parking lot for a meet and greet before dividing up all the supplies to be carried out to the Sandy Bar (the IBA program will remember to add coffee to the order next time! Sorry folks). The area we were going to be working was approximately a 1-kilometer walk along the shoreline from the parking lot. I was very appreciative of everyone’s willingness to divvy up and help carry gloves, bags, drinks, and snacks.
When we reached our working location, it was easy to see which areas had been covered in 2017, and which had not. Areas not covered were densely vegetated with little to no open sand. Volunteers started off the morning by going over the areas covered last year to remove any additional plants that were missed or had become re-established. From there we worked outward, expanding the section of open sand bar as much as we could.
I think it is safe to say that our restoration efforts are paying off, and I am eager to see which species of birds will start to re-colonize the area. Because these weed pull events are both popular and successful, the IBA program is hoping to organize another event this fall with Joanne.
Thank you everyone for coming out and helping restore endangered species habitat here in Manitoba!
For those of you interested in the bird list for the day, please see this checklist on ebird! A total of 33 species were seen, including 8 shorebirds (Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Greater Yellowlegs).
Thank you to the 24 willing volunteer for coming along, including the Thor and the volunteers from the town of Riverton, Nature Manitoba members, and the excellent East Interlake Conservation District. Of course, one person deserves special mention – Joanne, our leader and instigator in chief! Thank you also to our various funders, including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Manitoba Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, and Noventis Credit Union.
We will return!