International Shorebird Survey Spring 2021

Hello Everyone!

I am Ariel, one of Manitoba IBA’s Summer students for 2021. This past spring, our coordinator Amanda and I, as well as some of our wonderful volunteers have been visiting some of our IBAS to survey for shorebirds.

The protocol that we follow is one of our own, based heavily on the International Shorebird survey by Manomet, but fitted to the specific characteristics of Manitoba. The original protocol includes elements specific to coastal shoreline, which obviously doesn’t work for us in southern Manitoba! There are 4 survey sites that were covered throughout the spring shorebird monitoring. These sites are Whitewater Lake, Oak Hammock Marsh, Shoal Lakes IBA and Oak/Plum Lakes. Oak Hammock Marsh and the Shoal Lakes IBA routes are new this year! Theses sites have multiple routes to monitor and are normally surveyed 3 times in the spring and 3 times in the fall. Below you will find the results of our surveys for the Spring 2021 season. Note that while multiple species are observed and recorded under the ISS protocol during surveys, only shorebirds are included in the data.  

New this year are several photos sites that we have set up in the IBAs. The purpose of these photo sites is to take a photo and share it with us so that we may compare photos of the site each year. Sites that are chosen are usually marked with something distinct, such as a road sign.

A big thank you to Gillian, Bonnie, Tammi, and Mike, our lovely volunteers who were a big help this year in going out and monitoring our IBAs!  

Spring 2021 Oak Hammock Marsh

Oak hammock Marsh has 3 routes and was monitored several times in May partially during shorebird peak season. A total of 18 species were identified by volunteers and the IBA Program. Routes included the front pond – which as you may know is managed for shorebirds by the staff at the Marsh. One of the routes also includes our shorebirds scrape constructed last autumn. Route 2 was visited four times, Route 1 as visited twice and route 3 was visited three times. The Shorebird Scrape was done 3 times.

2021 Spring Season Oak Hammock Marsh 
SpeciesTotal # of IndividualsProportion of Individuals (%)
American Avocet93
Baird’s Sandpiper 41
Black-bellied Plover21
Least Sandpiper4112
Lesser Yellowlegs 41
Long Billed Dowitcher 30.87
Marbled Godwit154.37
Red Necked-phalarope5114.87
Ruddy Turnstone164.66
Semi plamated plover226.41
Short billed dowithcer41.17
Spotted Sandpiper61.75
Stilt Sandpiper20.58
White rumper Sandpiper20.58
Willet 72.04
Wilson’s Phalarope10430.32
Total # of species18 
Based on 13 surveys

Spring 2021 Oak/Plum Lakes

Oak and Plum lakes has 3 routes that were each monitored once. Due to the drought weather this spring, many of the areas close to the roads had dried out or moved farther back, making identification difficult at times. A total of 8 species were identified.

2021 Spring Season Oak/Plum Lakes 
SpeciesTotal # of IndividualsProportion of Individuals (%)
American Avocet2518
Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs7353
Lesser Yellowlegs 21
Pectoral Sandpiper86
Short billed?Long billed dowwitcher1511
Wilson’s Phalarope42.90
Total # of species8 
based on 3 surveys

Really low water levels at the ISS site along the northern tip of Grande Clairiere Road at Oak Lake. Normally the water goes all the way (and sometimes covers) the rock causeway seen at the end of the video. No wonder the shorebirds are so far out!

Spring 2021 Shoal Lake

Extremely low water at Shoal Lakes. Normally the entire beige- coloured (dried out) mudflat is covered with water. Photo by A. Shave.

North and South Shoal Lakes cover a larger area. There are 4 routes around the lakes, plus the water access near the Erinview campground. They were surveyed 25 times between April and June. Route 1 was surveyed five times, route 2 was surveyed eight times, route 3 was surveyed six times and route 4 was surveyed four times. The Campground was surveyed twice. A total of 24 species were identified. Shoal Lakes was my personal favorite IBA to survey as it was common to see a variety of other birds, such as several species of duck, pelicans, birds of prey and even a Red Headed Woodpecker, one of our focus species this year. Shoal Lakes was another area that was very clearly affected by the drought this year, with many normally suitable spots to survey having been dried out and pushed back farther from the road.

2021 Spring Season Shoal Lakes  
SpeciesTotal # of IndividualsProportion of Individuals (%)
American Avocet516
American Woodcock 10
Bairds Sandpiper162
Greater Yellowlegs465
Greater/lesser Yellowlegs10
Hudsonian Godwit10
Least Sandpiper17220.50
Lesser Yellowlegs10112.04
Long billed Dowitcher 70.83
Marbled Godwit 293.46
Pectoral Sandpiper111.31
peep sp. 242.86
Semipalamated Plover10812.87
Semipalamated sandpiper60.72
Short billed dowitcher141.67
Short billed/long billed dowitcher 111.31
Solitary Sandpiper30.36
Spotted Sandpiper151.79
White rumped sandpiper50.60
Wilson’s phalarope 485.72
Wilson’s snipe91.07
Total # of species24 
Based on 23 surveys
A group of American Avocets at Whitewater Lake. Photo by A. Shave

Spring 2021 Whitewater Lake

Whitewater Lake was surveyed 23 times over the course of the season. There are 7 routes in total on the east and west side of the lake. For the west side of the lake, route 1 was surveyed three times, route 2 was surveyed twice and route 3 was surveyed five times. For the East side of the lake, route 1 was surveyed four times and route 2 was surveyed once. Sexton’s point was surveyed eight times. While the graph shows large numbers of certain birds, volunteers reported that the water around the lake was low, and When Amanda and I went to set up photo sites, we noticed the same. The dry weather has no doubt affected the IBA’s this year. A total of 23 species were recorded with a staggering 23,424 individuals counted. A large number of these shorebirds were recorded by Gillian on May 16th when huge numbers of shorebirds were counted along the ISS routes.

2021 Spring Season Shoal Lakes  
SpeciesTotal # of IndividualsProportion of Individuals (%)
American Avocet6043
American Golden-Plover80
Bairds Sandpiper4162
Blackbellied plover 1160
Greater Yellowlegs60
Hudsonian Godwit70.03
Least Sandpiper14856.39
Lesser Yellowlegs810.35
Marbled Godwit 1110.48
Pectoral Sandpiper1870680.48
Red necked Phalarope 1960.84
Semipalamated Plover1400.60
Semipalamated sandpiper3791.63
Short billed Dowitcher120.05
Short billed/long billed Dowitcher 550.24
Spotted Sandpiper10.00
Stilt Sandpiper 1890.81
Upland Sandpiper50.02
White Rumped Sandpiper 3281.41
Wilson’s Phalarope 2891.24
Total # of species23 

As we can see by the graph, most species have relatively high counts but the Pectoral Sandpiper’s count towers over the rest at 18,706!

Future ISS Surveys

If you are interested in volunteering for International Shorebird surveys or about shorebird identification, please contact Amanda at for more information as well as tools to get you started. You do not have to commit to running all sites at a location – there may even be a route or two that you follow on your normal birding trips! We are also able to provide mentoring for shorebird ID and/or lend out spotting scopes if needed. The fall ISS survey period starts on July 11th and runs until October 25th.