Oak Lake IBA – Red-Headed Woodpecker Blitz

On August 15th we had our second IBA Blitz of the year. Volunteers travelled out to the Oak Lake/ Plum Lakes IBA in search of Red-headed Wooodpeckers.

The day started off early for several volunteers making the trip from Winnipeg to Virden area! We also had a couple of volunteers from the Brandon area join us in surveying a large section of the IBA. The weather started out wonderful for birding – we avoided the early morning rain as well as the strong afternoon winds! Our volunteers split into 3 groups for the day so that we could cover the largest area possible.

Group 1 comprised of the IBA staff (Amanda, Nate and Alyssa). We had a blackbird-happy day and our species with the highest counts were Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. We also saw 9 Eastern Wood-Pewees throughout the day.

There was a Red-headed Woodpecker here a minute ago! Habitat where Group 1 saw an adult and juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker. Copyright A. Shave.

Group 2 included Gillian, Roger and Heather. Group 2 became our most successful “shorebirders” of the day and saw many Lesser Yellowlegs, Red-necked Grebes, Marbled Godwits, and Stilt Sandpipers. They were also lucky enough to see several White-faced Ibises. They saw our most abundant species of the day -­ Franklin’s Gulls – with a count of around 2000 individuals!

Group 3 included Glennis, Cam, Paul and Lynn. Group 3 saw a large flock of nearly 30 Cedar Waxwings. Other exciting finds were a Broad-winged Hawk, Purple Martins, and a pair of Lark Sparrows.

And now on to the the Red-headed Woodpeckers! Group 2 saw the largest number of Red-headed Woodpeckers by far, with a total of nine seen, all in or around sites that were identified by blitz volunteers last year. Group 1 saw two Red-header Woodpeckers (an adult and a juvenile) together, also hanging out in an area where they had been previously seen. Despite driving through what we would expect to be good Red-headed Woodpecker habitat, Group 3 did not see any of the species. The area Group 3 was surveying was new to our Red-headed Woodpecker Blitz this year, and we now have valuable ground truthing of the possible habitat north of the Trans-Canada Highway in the Oak Lake IBA. All together we found Red-headed Woodpeckers at 6 points within the IBA and possible breeding pairs were detected at 4 points. We had a total count of 10 adults and 1 juvenile for the day.

To everyone who came out thanks for the great day and all your hard work! Collectively we saw 73 species and 3182 individual birds! Our full species list is below.

Species NameTotal
Canada Goose8
Wood Duck1
Blue-winged Teal41
Gadwall30
Mallard15
Canvasback20
Lesser Scaup1
Red-necked Grebe7
Mourning Dove74
American Coot10
Killdeer12
Marbled Godwit5
Stilt Sandpiper4
Least Sandpiper8
Greater Yellowlegs5
Lesser Yellowlegs51
Franklin’s Gull2000
Black Tern1
Double-crested Cormorant1
Great Blue Heron8
White-faced Ibis7
Turkey Vulture2
Accipiter spp.2
Broad-winged Hawk1
Swainson’s Hawk1
Red-tailed Hawk25
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker14
Red-headed Woodpecker11
Downy Woodpecker3
Hairy Woodpecker2
Pileated Woodpecker1
Northern Flicker12
American Kestrel4
Merlin3
Eastern Wood-Pewee15
Eastern Phoebe3
Least Flycatcher9
Great Crested Flycatcher2
Western Kingbird13
Eastern Kingbird46
Blue-headed Vireo1
Red-eyed Vireo10
Blue Jay2
Black-billed Magpie16
American Crow25
Common Raven5
Black-capped Chickadee11
Purple Martin2
Tree Swallow12
Bank Swallow8
Barn Swallow28
Cliff Swallow20
European Starling8
Gray Catbird8
Brown Thrasher1
Eastern Bluebird5
American Robin17
Cedar Waxwing53
House Sparrow10
American Goldfinch52
Chipping Sparrow2
Clay-colored Sparrow6
Lark Sparrow2
Vesper Sparrow5
Song Sparrow2
Yellow-headed Blackbird40
Western Meadowlark23
Baltimore Oriole6
Red-winged Blackbird145
Brown-headed Cowbird54
Brewer’s Blackbird7
Common Grackle63
Yellow Warbler5
TOTAL NUMBER BIRDS3182
TOTAL NUMBER SPECIES73