The Shorebird Blitz at Whitewater Lake, September 1st 2019

On September 1st, the Manitoba IBA Program organised a blitz at the Whitewater Lake IBA. The intention was to count shorebirds, including the International Shorebird Survey (ISS) transect routes. Bonnie Chartier, one of our IBA Steering Committee members in Manitoba led the trip. Tim Poole, (still) the Manitoba IBA Coordinator gives a summary of proceedings.

Alas I was unable to get out for the Whitewater Lake IBA Blitz and it sounds as though I missed a good one! We had to postpone from the previous weekend due to some appalling weather. Seriously, there seemed to be a magnet for poor weather to overlap with IBA events in 2019. We have never had so many issues with weather before! Although it was a long weekend, 12 willing volunteers were able to get out and count the great birds of this IBA.

Each group was asked to cover an area, and two groups were asked to include ISS routes and enter these under the ISS Protocol on eBird, with the Manitoba IBA Program switching  all checklists into IBA Protocol. This eBird malarkey gets complicated! We had four groups with some excellent birders coming forward to help out during the morning.

Whitewater Lake - August 2019 IBA Blitz Boundaries.jpg

Our summary of the day begins with Group A, the western group, covering the western ISS route and the parts of the IBA around Deloraine. Gillian, Erica and Jane were our team here.

WWL-West Route Map

This area has previously been teeming with birds. However seven species of duck demonstrates that maybe times are a changing at Whitewater. The most abundant duck was Blue-winged Teal (102 individuals). Indeed, long-legged waders seem in short supply, especially when compared to previous years. I would have fallen over backwards during one of our 2017 blitzes if someone were to tell me there would only be three White-faced Ibis, a Great Egret and not a single Cattle Egret in this area in 2019.

Great egret escaping

Long-legged waders, such as this Great Egret seem to be thin on the ground in 2019. Photo copyright Randall Mooi

Shorebirds were fairly abundant, although maybe, being late summer, numbers were lower than earlier in the season. Still, 300 dowitchers remains a good total. There were also 18 Red-necked Phalarope, 27 Pectoral Sandpiper and 65 Least Sandpiper, part of a total of 14 species for the morning.

semipal plover

Full of character, a Semipalmated Plover. Copyright Randall Mooi

Group B included blitz leader for the day, the indefatigable Bonnie. She was joined by Glennis and Lynnea for the morning. One surprise was a Ferruginous Hawk. The story goes that Bonnie called Ferruginous Hawk, someone else who shall remain nameless called Krider’s Hawk but took a photo, and lo and behold Ferruginous won.

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Blurry Ferruginous Hawk. Copyright Lynnea Parker

This made it  four Buteo species morning, with Red-tails, Swainson’s and Rough-legged also identified. There were reasonable numbers of Canada Goose (316), Blue-winged Teal (197) and Mallard (151). The number of species of duck (five in this case, and all dabblers) was low across the board, many must still be on their moulting grounds. For example, thousands of Canvasback and Redhead moult in the Long Island and Long Island Bay IBA and the Sagemace and Coleman Bay Islands IBA.

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A young Northern Harrier somehow not managing to flush the local shorebird populace. Photo copyright Lynnea Parker

Of course the subject of the blitz was to capture those all important shorebirds. We set this group along the eastward ISS transects and they also had time to cover the all important Sexton’s Island ISS, plus the considerable stretch of PR448 in-between.

WWL_East Route Map (1)

In total Group B counted 17 species of shorebird. Sexton’s was quiet, just a single Black-bellied Plover with a handful of yellowlegs and Killdeer for company. The really big numbers were in the east, with 443 American Avocet, 277 White-rumped Sandpiper, 681 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 170 Short-billed Dowitcher and 140 Long-billed Dowitcher. The peaks of Pectoral Sandpiper had clearly been and gone from Whitewater Lake, only 13 counted in this area.

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Stilt Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs. Photo copyright Lynnea Parker

Group C were first time blitzers Tami and Mike with more experienced pros Lewis and Ken. This group took on an area starting in the southeast and stretching west of the old mound. They had some decent numbers, including 255 Stilt Sandpipers at the end of 124W.


Stilt Sandpipers foraging in the lake shallows. Photo copyright Randall Mooi.

They also had 66 American Avocet.

avocet fall plumage

This fall plumage American Avocet still has a certain majesty even without the striking salmon plumage on its head and neck. Copyright Randall Mooi.

Canada Goose (864) and Red-winged Blackbird (1081) were unsurprisingly the most abundant birds in their area. A Prairie Falcon was a very nice bonus bird.

Group D were the Moois, Randy and Odette. Randy being a zoologist as well as a very good birder, had great fund photographing anything that he could find. From caddis flies….

clipboard caddisfly procreation

A convenient spot for a pair of caddis flies to, er, well do what caddis flies do. Copyright Randall Mooi

to some sort of sand beetle…

beach drift ii

Copyright Randall Mooi

fields of foxtail…

foxtail and whitewater

Copyright Randall Mooi

and even Odette!

Odette on south shore of Whitewater Aug 31

Copyright Randall Mooi

They had one Canvasback, but boy was it posing…

canvasback conversations

Copyright Randall Mooi

Canvasback portrait

Looking like one of Randy’s museum specimens. Copyright Randall Mooi

Grebe numbers, most notably Western Grebe appear to have been low at Whitewater Lake in 2019. In 2017, Randy and Tim counted over 1,000 Western Grebes in this area. In 2019 there was only a single bird, plus a Pied-billed and two Eared.

eared grebe ashore

A single Eared Grebe looking beached. Copyright Randall Mooi

Shorebird numbers were very good in Area D. There were 177 Stilt Sandpiper, plus over 250 of both species of dowitcher (due to the complexities of distinguishing between these species, most remained unidentified).


Dowitchers loafing around. Copyright Randall Mooi

Three Buff-breasted Sandpiper were encountered as well. Another highlight were the two Hudsonian Godwit, a threatened species in Canada, and also relatively rare to encounter in this region during fall migration.


Hudonian Godwits. note the overall greyness which in fall is in sharp contrast to Marbled Godwit. All copyright Randall Mooi.

In total this group encountered 17 species of shorebird during the morning, an impressive total! They also saw another single Prairie Falcon and 19 White-faced Ibis.

ibis in silhouette

At least there are still some White-faced Ibis at Whitewater Lake. Photo copyright Randall Mooi

In total, our volunteers counted over 13,000 birds, representing 98 species. The most abundant species was Canada Goose (1,969), followed by Red-winged Blackbird (1,704). It would appear there has already been some evidence of migration of Yellow-headed Blackbird, as usually numbers of this species in fall re much higher. Diving ducks are still to gather here in any significant numbers, but there were good totals of dabblers. Grebe numbers and long-legged waders appear very low compared to past counts, and this must be associated with the fast changing water levels. The lake does at last seem to be rescinding from the peaks a few years ago. We also missed the peak swallow migration because in previous years they were hard to count! One group of birds seemingly doing ok here are raptors, there being over one hundred counted.

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Shorebirds ahoy! Copyright Lynnea Parker

Shorebirds were our target group of birds. Semipalmated Sandpiper gather at Whitewater in very good numbers in fall, and were the most abundant species (706). There were 549 American Avocet counted, 448 Stilt Sandpipers, 302 White-rumped Sandpiper and 186 Lesser Yellowlegs. Dowitchers totaled nearly 900, but most were unidentifiable.

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Try counting that lot. Photo copyright Lynnea Parker

Finally, thank you to all our volunteers, especially Bonnie for taking on responsibility in my absence and Glennis for her hospitality. Also to Gillian, Erica, Jane, Lynnea, Lewis, Ken, Tami, Mike, Randy and Odette.

Thank you also to our amazing funders for making these events possible.

And finally, below is our total list for the day.

Species Name Species Count
Canada Goose 1,969
Blue-winged Teal 924
Northern Shoveler 163
Gadwall 47
Mallard 861
Northern Pintail 118
Green-winged Teal 95
Canvasback 2
Redhead 2
Bufflehead 15
Ruddy Duck 27
Gray Partridge 22
Sharp-tailed Grouse 9
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 2
Western Grebe 13
Rock Pigeon 60
Mourning Dove 141
Sora 2
American Coot 120
Sandhill Crane 4
American Avocet 549
Black-bellied Plover 6
Semipalmated Plover 8
Killdeer 56
Hudsonian Godwit 6
Marbled Godwit 2
Stilt Sandpiper 448
Sanderling 9
Baird’s Sandpiper 53
Least Sandpiper 89
White-rumped Sandpiper 302
Buff-breasted Sandpiper 3
Pectoral Sandpiper 58
Semipalmated Sandpiper 706
Short-billed Dowitcher 185
Long-billed Dowitcher 183
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher 515
Wilson’s Snipe 7
Wilson’s Phalarope 8
Red-necked Phalarope 18
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Greater Yellowlegs 94
Willet 15
Lesser Yellowlegs 186
Franklin’s Gull 708
Ring-billed Gull 858
Herring Gull 13
Forster’s Tern 5
Double-crested Cormorant 71
American White Pelican 189
Great Egret 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
White-faced Ibis 22
Turkey Vulture 2
Northern Harrier 32
Bald Eagle 17
Swainson’s Hawk 16
Red-tailed Hawk 37
Rough-legged Hawk 3
Ferruginous Hawk 2
hawk sp. 1
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 5
Peregrine Falcon 1
Prairie Falcon 2
Western Kingbird 4
Eastern Kingbird 10
Black-billed Magpie 1
Common Raven 3
Horned Lark 12
Tree Swallow 100
Bank Swallow 6
Barn Swallow 53
Cliff Swallow 35
House Wren 1
Sedge Wren 8
Marsh Wren 5
European Starling 30
American Robin 1
Cedar Waxwing 1
House Sparrow 111
American Goldfinch 7
Clay-colored Sparrow 7
Lark Sparrow 1
Vesper Sparrow 28
Savannah Sparrow 54
Song Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 2
sparrow sp. 8
Yellow-headed Blackbird 310
Bobolink 1
Western Meadowlark 34
Orchard Oriole 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1,704
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Brewer’s Blackbird 62
Common Grackle 283
Northern Waterthrush 1
Yellow Warbler 1
passerine sp. 76
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Oh go on, one final one. Copyright Lynnea Parker

September IBA Contest Sponsored by Red River Coop

IBA birding contest September.jpg

September is a great month for raptor migration in Manitoba’s IBAs. You can also enter by submitting observations through our website at At the end of the month we will do a draw of all eligible checklists for an opportunity to win a $50 gas card from Co-op, donated by Red River Co-op.

Augusts contest was won by Barbara and Phil Barnett for this checklist from Delta Marsh IBA –

Delta Marsh IBA Blitz Results Roundup

On Saturday August 17th volunteers from the Manitoba IBA Program descended on Delta Marsh IBA for a shorebird blitz. The IBA split into 5 main sections, and groups covered as much of the area as possible during a morning of birding.


In Group A we had Cal and Gord. They covered the west side of the diversion all the way to Lynch’s Point. The most significant count of birds for this group was of 5000 Franklin’s Gulls heading north early in the morning. They had good numbers of Mallard, an estimated 800 primarily along the lakeshore off of Cram and Deep Creeks. The total of 17 species of shorebird was impressive, including 320 Least Sandpiper, 239 Semipalmated Sandpiper and 134 Lesser Yellowlegs. A Prairie Falcon was a significant bonus.

Prairie Falcon_3036_Artuso.jpg

Garry, Deanna and Rudolf took on Group B, an area from the east of the diversion to Delta Beach. They also had a large number of Franklin’s Gulls heading north, 3550 in total. 146 Forster’s Tern were also accounted for. 40 Western Grebes seemed low, something that they and other groups commented on afterwards. There were 11 species of shorebird in total including 170 Least Sandpiper.

Semipalmated Sandpiper_2642_mixed flock.jpg

Semipalmated Sandpiper in a mixed flock. Copyright Christian Artuso

Group C consisted of Katharine, Pat, Wally and Chris. They covered an area from Delta Beach to St Ambroise. They counted an impressive 329 Purple Martins during their travels in this area and 24 Red-tailed Hawks. They found 8 species of shorebird. The total number of birds in this area was 1606.

Group D was split in two. On the road we had Jo, Betsy and Rob. Early morning they counted 600 Double-crested Cormorants from St Ambroise Beach Provincial Park. They also came across an adult and 14 full grown Gray Partridge chicks and 100 Bank Swallows, in the beach area. Later on in the morning they came across another 250 Double-crested Cormorant and 100 American White Pelican around 83 and 84N and a further 100 American White Pelican around St Marks. There was also a Krider’s red-tailed Hawk and a family of Red-headed Woodpecker along Highway 430.

The other part of this group was our beach team, heading from St Ambroise through to Clandeboye Bay. Gull numbers were pretty good in this area, 280 Franklin’s and 480 Ring-bills counted. There were 13 species of shorebird, the most significant numbers were of Semipalmated Sandpiper (385) and Least (82). Walking along the beach ridge, one might expect some good numbers of migrating warblers. On this occasion however, there was only a single Northern Waterthrush to join the Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats. They headed back along the beach and across to the end of PR430. At this point they counted 2095 Double-crested Cormorant, had 11 species of shorebird and an impressive number of gulls.

Semipalmated Sandpiper_2665_mixed flock landing.jpg

Shorebirds landing on mudflats. Copyright Christian Artuso

After lunch this group headed to the PR227 dump locating 3 California Gull among the 700 Ring-bills and 100 Herring Gulls.

California Gull_2895.jpg

Finally, Tim and Amanda walked a large portion of Twin Lake Beach. They only detected 8 species of shorebird including 42 Least Sandpiper, although frustratingly, they had to turn back with larger flocks taking flight on the horizon. There were 177 Bonaparte’s Gull in this area, by far the largest total of this species all day.

Semipalmated Sandpiper_2612_mixed flock.jpg

Counting shorebirds often looked like this image at Twin Lakes Beach. Copyright Christian Artuso.

In total we detected 123 species and counted 26,352 individuals. The most abundant species were Canada Goose (1,071), Mallard (1,412), Franklin’s Gull (9,409), Ring-billed Gull (2,153) and Double-crested Cormorant (3,683). The total number of Purple Martin seems notable (498).

19 species of shorebird were recorded during the morning. The most abundant species was Least Sandpiper (764) followed by Semipalmated Sandpiper (668), Lesser Yellowlegs (221) and Greater Yellowlegs (129).

Here are the totals from the morning. Thank you to all our volunteers for an enjoyable morning in a great IBA.

Species Name Species Count Sample Size
Canada Goose 1,071 9
Wood Duck 28 8
Blue-winged Teal 110 8
Northern Shoveler 48 4
Gadwall 62 4
American Wigeon 37 2
Mallard 1,412 12
Green-winged Teal 59 4
Canvasback 6 2
Redhead 5 2
Bufflehead 4 1
Common Goldeneye 1 1
Hooded Merganser 19 5
Common Merganser 2 1
Ruddy Duck 3 1
duck sp. 72 3
Gray Partridge 15 1
Pied-billed Grebe 1 1
Western Grebe 53 6
Rock Pigeon 8 3
Mourning Dove 89 16
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 17 8
American Coot 2 1
Sandhill Crane 10 1
American Avocet 12 1
Semipalmated Plover 120 4
Killdeer 88 8
Marbled Godwit 75 6
Stilt Sandpiper 55 2
Sanderling 11 3
Baird’s Sandpiper 31 5
Least Sandpiper 764 10
White-rumped Sandpiper 19 2
Pectoral Sandpiper 55 5
Semipalmated Sandpiper 668 8
peep sp. 30 1
Short-billed Dowitcher 3 1
Wilson’s Snipe 2 2
Red-necked Phalarope 49 1
Spotted Sandpiper 22 6
Solitary Sandpiper 3 2
Greater Yellowlegs 129 12
Willet 1 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 271 10
shorebird sp. 65 2
Bonaparte’s Gull 185 4
Franklin’s Gull 9,409 10
Ring-billed Gull 2,153 15
California Gull 3 1
Herring Gull 173 8
Caspian Tern 55 6
Black Tern 1 1
Common Tern 103 4
Forster’s Tern 218 9
Double-crested Cormorant 3,683 12
American White Pelican 353 10
American Bittern 4 3
Great Blue Heron 11 5
Great Egret 9 2
Turkey Vulture 13 3
Northern Harrier 37 17
Bald Eagle 32 14
Swainson’s Hawk 5 3
Red-tailed Hawk 62 17
Belted Kingfisher 2 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 3 1
Downy Woodpecker 2 2
Hairy Woodpecker 2 1
Northern Flicker 5 4
American Kestrel 9 6
Merlin 13 10
Peregrine Falcon 1 1
Prairie Falcon 1 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 7 4
Least Flycatcher 13 4
Eastern Phoebe 3 3
Western Kingbird 6 3
Eastern Kingbird 144 21
Warbling Vireo 3 2
Red-eyed Vireo 5 4
Blue Jay 1 1
American Crow 2 1
Common Raven 60 10
Purple Martin 498 7
Tree Swallow 283 10
Bank Swallow 116 5
Barn Swallow 360 19
Cliff Swallow 2 1
House Wren 8 5
Sedge Wren 3 2
Marsh Wren 12 3
European Starling 131 6
Gray Catbird 14 8
Eastern Bluebird 1 1
American Robin 58 11
Cedar Waxwing 45 6
House Sparrow 12 1
Pine Siskin 3 2
American Goldfinch 23 9
Chipping Sparrow 12 5
Clay-colored Sparrow 20 6
White-throated Sparrow 1 1
Savannah Sparrow 41 5
Song Sparrow 81 12
Swamp Sparrow 22 3
Yellow-headed Blackbird 184 7
Bobolink 2 1
Western Meadowlark 14 9
Orchard Oriole 2 1
Baltimore Oriole 15 5
Red-winged Blackbird 942 12
Brown-headed Cowbird 1 1
Brewer’s Blackbird 577 8
Common Grackle 286 9
blackbird sp. 5 1
Northern Waterthrush 3 3
Black-and-white Warbler 2 1
Common Yellowthroat 34 5
American Redstart 2 2
Cape May Warbler 1 1
Magnolia Warbler 2 1
Yellow Warbler 131 12
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5 4

Finally, this was Christian’s final IBA event before moving to his new home in Gatineau. He will be sorely missed, although he remains involved in the program even now from his new lofty position with the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Thank you once more for all your many contributions to this program in Manitoba.


A familiar image, Christian taking photos of birds at the dump. Thanks Betsy Thorsteinson for capturing this!