In the Weeds

On September 19th volunteers headed to Riverton Sandy Bar IBA for a morning of beautiful fall weather, birding, and weed pulling. Here is a report of the successful day from Alyssa.

Our socially distanced volunteers with some of our weed pulling bags (other bags off in the distance) at the end of the day. Missing Ann, Jock, Peter and Jessica. Thank you everyone!

The morning started off by sharing coffee and snacks in the parking lot as we waited for everyone to arrive. Amanda, assuming the morning would be chilly, brought more than enough coffee for 10 people. Perhaps it was a ploy to energize the group into weed-pulling machines?!?

After mingling, we hiked the roughly 1.5km stretch to our destination. The weeds looked green and healthy as ever, even with several days of fall weather already past. The group got to work tackling areas that would be most desirable for nesting shorebird habitat. Clover, Burdock, and silverweed were quite abundant when we arrived (but not when we left!). It is not often that habitat restoration involves removing vegetation from the area, but by removing weeds we hope to improve the habitat to the sandy-beach qualities desired by some species of shorebirds and terns. The Piping Plover, for example, is a species at risk that has historically nested in this IBA. Although this species has not been seen at Sandy Bar since 2004, they nested at an undisclosed location in Manitoba in 2016. Perhaps our continued efforts will aid in its return.

Around noon the team took a well-deserved break and hiked down the spit in search of shorebirds. We saw a variety of shorebirds, waterfowl, and a few other migrants. Yellow-rumped Warblers have clearly started their migration down south, as they were one of the most abundant species recorded for the day (second to over 600 Canada Geese spotted). Some other highlights were a Ross’s Goose and a Greater White-fronted Goose. We were also lucky enough to have about 15 Sanderlings come very close to our group. They were clearly distracted by all the good grub.

As many of you may know, identifying fall shorebirds can be a bit of a challenge. Some birds, however, were quite cooperative and stood side-by-side with other species so we could have a direct comparison. By seeing them side-by side we could see the daintier qualities of a Golden Plover when compared directly with a chunkier Black-bellied Plover, as well as the black “armpit” of the Black-bellied Plover.

Joanne, Christian, Jock and Peter taking in the shorebirds, while on a birding break from weedpulling. Copyright A. Shave

A few folks popped in at different times throughout the day, but overall we had a total of 10 of us pulling weeds. Together we filled just over 20 bags to the brim with tightly packed weeds, which is about two bags a person!

Peter, Christian and Jessica pulling weeds.
Lynnea and Adam pulling weeds. Copyright A. Shave.

We would like to give a big thank you to Ann, Jessica, Peter, Jock, Lynnea, Adam, Joanne and Christian for joining us in our weed pull event this year! We are looking forward to holding future weedpull events in 2021, so stay tuned.

Thank you to Christian for providing our species list for the day.

Species NameCount
Snow Goose40
Ross’s Goose1
Greater White-fronted Goose1
Cackling Goose2
Canada Goose650
Mallard55
Green-winged Teal4
Ring-necked Duck2
Horned Grebe2
Black-bellied Plover6
American Golden-Plover12
Semipalmated Plover2
Sanderling43
Dunlin1
Pectoral Sandpiper2
Greater Yellowlegs15
Bonaparte’s Gull16
Ring-billed Gull50
Herring Gull50
Double-crested Cormorant25
American White Pelican9
American Bittern1
Bald Eagle2
Merlin1
Common Raven3
Black-capped Chickadee3
Marsh Wren1
American Robin3
American Pipit30
Lapland Longspur20
Fox Sparrow1
Dark-eyed Junco5
White-crowned Sparrow2
Harris’s Sparrow1
White-throated Sparrow3
Savannah Sparrow5
Common Grackle3
Northern Waterthrush1
Common Yellowthroat2
Palm Warbler3
Yellow-rumped Warbler90