Douglas Marsh Evening Bird Survey

We recently had an evening bird survey at Douglas Marsh, hosted by Nature Conservancy Canada and led by Manitoba IBA Program Coordinator, Tim Poole. Kelsey Bell, our Summer Assistant, gives her take on the proceedings.

On Friday, July 6th, 2019 Nature Conservancy Canada hosted an event out at the Douglas Marsh IBA, asking Manitoba IBA Program to lead a bird survey. Douglas Marsh IBA is a well-known wetland located East of Brandon, MB. The area is famous for hosting significant numbers of the elusive Yellow Rail, one of the nations vulnerably listed bird species. People from all over come to Douglas, MB, in the hopes of hearing this secretive little bird. Friday night was no different, the event attracted  upwards of 30 people. It was great to see so many people attending the event for just a chance to hear this secretive little bird. Visitors from the surrounding Brandon area, Portage La Prairie, Winnipeg and even St-Jean-Baptiste arrived at 8:30pm for a short presentation from Steven Anderson of NCC Manitoba, as well as our very own Tim Poole.


A view over NCC’s Douglas Marsh property. Copyright Tim Poole

Following the presentation, we headed out to the NCC Douglas Marsh property to survey the birds. As soon as we entered the property a Brewer’s Blackbird dropped into the grass with food in her mouth. A short distance later, a pair of Bobolinks were seen, and the female quickly disappeared into the grasses. Great to see such strong nesting indicators from both species, especially the Bobolinks which are listed as a Species at Risk in Canada.


Male Bobolink calling on the property. Copyright Tim Poole

Sedge wrens scolded us most of the evening with their distinct, angry sounding chatter. Wilson’s snipe graced us with their winnowing display near the road, on the edge of the property, and as the sun set lower on the horizon, we began to detect the soft songs of the LeConte’s Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow in the distance; a sure sign there would be Yellow Rail in the area.

As the final glimpse of dusk disappeared beyond the horizon, we headed to the road for our chance at hearing the bird we came for, the Yellow Rail. Although it was a quiet evening and activity felt low, our patience paid off. At approximately 11:15pm we heard the first Yellow Rails of the evening. As we listened to the subtle and distant call of the Yellow Rail, like two stones being clicked together, we were also charmed by the call of the Sora and Virginia Rail, from the opposite side of the road.


A smudgy dusk over the marsh. Copyright Tim Poole

Much like many evening surveys, we relied mostly on aural detection of most of the species recorded. By the end of the evening a total of 23 species were detected in the area, including Western Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, Marsh Wren and of course, Yellow Rail.

Thank you to everyone who made the trip out, it was great to see so many people come out to Douglas Marsh and assist with the survey. It was pleasant evening with fantastic weather. All-in-all, it was a great success!

Here is the evenings eBird checklist –