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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They also had 66 American Avocet.
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….
to some sort of sand beetle…
fields of foxtail…
and even Odette!
They had one Canvasback, but boy was it posing…
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
And finally, below is our total list for the day.
|Species Name||Species Count|
|American White Pelican||189|