While this is a challenging time both globally at here at home, here at IBA Manitoba we are encouraging you to keep up with birding as we move into the spring! Below are some links that can bring a little birding into your day.
Whether you are a beginner or experienced birder, now is the perfect time to start backyard birding. You don’t even need a backyard, a window or balcony with a view of the sky will work as well. You can even start a yard list of different birds and when you first see them (or use eBird.org to enter sightings into a citizen science database) to keep a record of your sightings. It can certainly help to have a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide (book, app or website) handy!
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/ – All About Birds is a website run by Cornell University that has a variety of birding resources from bird identification, to life history information and species range maps.
https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/ – A bird identification app for Android and iPhone also developed by Cornell University.
Bird Guides – There are a number of bird guides available that cover Manitoba. Some are broken down into Eastern or Western North America (Manitoba falls right in the middle, but personally I’ve always gone with Eastern), others cover all of North America.
Manitoba Stay-at-Home Nocturnal Owl Survey
Normally around this time, Nocturnal Owl surveys are being conducted by volunteers all around rural Manitoba. Due to the need to stay near home, the nocturnal owl surveys are now being done by volunteers our own backyards. Surveys are conducted 40 minutes after sunset. Surveys last 5 minutes each, where volunteers look and listen for number, species and direction of owls. And don’t forget zero counts (i.e. no owls) are important results for science as well! Currently this citizen science program is ending April 20th 2020, but you can certainly count for yourself after that period as well!
https://importantbirdareasmb.ca/manitoba-stay-at-home-nocturnal-owl-survey-form/ – Link to the Google Docs reporting form on Manitoba IBA’s website and for more information.
A backyard owl (although out during the afternoon). By Amanda Shave
Nature Manitoba’s 100 Birds for 100 Years
As part of their 100th anniversary, Nature Manitoba is holding a contest for people to see 100 bird species during 2020. Check out the website for a downloadable version of the bird list. It includes birding for beginner to expert skill levels.
Update your Birding Skill Level
No matter your current skill level, there is always room for improvement! Expand your knowledge of birding by sight or sound. Once we can resume our normal activities, you’ll be able to wow your friends and family with your knowledge of birds.
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/ – All About Birds is a website run by Cornell University that has a variety of birding resources from bird identification, to life history information, species range maps and more.
https://www.xeno-canto.org/– A free worldwide data base of bird calls and sounds. It can be interesting to hear the regional dialects of some bird species.
https://ebird.org/explore– A citizen science database that is used primarily for citizen science. It also has resources such as videos, recordings, photos and range maps for species found in Manitoba and around the world.
Excited for Birds Arriving in Spring?
There are a number of websites that track the arrival of birds on spring migration. Some websites are species specific, while others are general. Below are a few to increase your anticipation:
ebird.org – The bar charts function (https://ebird.org/GuideMe?cmd=changeLocation) comprised of citizen science data reported in past years gives an estimation of the timing (and species abundance) for a specific location throughout the year. You can also use the “Species Map” function with the “current year” to track birds moving on spring migration (https://ebird.org/map).
Example bar chart for Oak Hammock Marsh IBA (eBird.org)
Example species map for Cliff Swallows sightings as of April 14, 2020 (eBird.org)
https://birdcast.info/– Unfortunately BirdCast only tracks birds in the U.S.A., however their method is very neat! They use an array of weather satellites that can pick up on the high densities of birds that travel on spring migration. These densities of birds are then plotted on a map, similar to how meteorologists show precipitation maps on your local news. You can watch birds as they arrive up to the U.S.A./ Canada border.
BirdCast by Cornell Laboratory
There are a number of organizations and individuals that host cameras trained on bird feeders, migration stopover sites or nest camera. See below for a few favourites (some may not have started up yet for the season).
http://www.species-at-risk.mb.ca/pefa/r-resources.html – Peregrine Falcon Cameras (includes cameras in Winnipeg and Brandon).
https://video.nest.com/live/w3xeU1YLng and http://220.127.116.11/mobile/main.html?lang=en&_=0.4702988833454287 – Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre cameras on bird feeders and the marsh respectively.
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/all-cams/ – AllAboutBirds.org also hosts a large variety of bird cameras year-round from around the world.
Bird feeder camera at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre
Safe Birding Guidelines
Lastly, no matter how you bird, remember to follow safe birding guidelines. This includes normal advice such as giving birds a respectable distance when observing them, to remembering to social distance if you leave your home.
https://ebird.org/canada/news/please-bird-mindfully – eBird Canada on birding mindfully.
https://www.birdscanada.org/responding-to-covid-19-what-birds-canada-is-doing-and-how-you-can-help/ – Birds Canada response to birding during COVID-19.