Delta Marsh Bird Blitz

On August 14th, Manitoba IBA held the third bird blitz of the season at the Delta Marsh IBA. Our objective for this event was to record all birds we saw, however, special attention was to be given to any Species at Risk that might have been sighted. Waterbirds and shorebirds were also a special area of focus for the day due to their ideal habitat found in the IBA.

It was an early morning for the IBA staff and volunteers, starting our survey at 7:00 am or earlier in an effort to beat the heat that was coming. Luckily the day prior had been cool, so the morning was actually a great temperature. We were lucky to have a larger group of volunteers for this event and were able to cover more areas of the IBA. There were 15 of us in total including the IBA staff. We were separated into 6 different groups to cover 6 areas of the IBA.

Map of our survey areas for the day. Clandeboye Group walked along the beach in area D.

The groups were broken down as follows:

Group A: Katharine and John Schulz, Barbara Emberley

Group B: Rudolf Koes and Garry Budyk

Group C: Jo Swartz and Rob Parsons

Group D: Pat Wally, Nathan Entz and Doreen Draffin

Group E: Vicky Tang, Amanda Shave and Ariel Desrochers

Clandeboye Group: Alyssa Stulberg and Theresa Mackey

We had no set routes for the day. The goal for each group was to simply explore the area assigned and record all birds and observe the habitat. Various species were recorded and some in very large numbers.

Group A (Katharine, John and Barbara) observed 59 species during their survey. Many shorebirds were observed during their survey including the Stilt Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilsons Phalarope and Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs. Gulls and swallows were observed in large numbers.  Otherwise, highlights of Group A consisted of three Virginia Rails, a large flock of approximately 24 Gray Partridge, a flock of Bank Swallows observed on the 44W just south of 80N, two Caspian Terns along the diversion and plentiful Red-tailed Hawks throughout!

Solitary Sandpiper - Katharine Schulz
A Solitary Sandpiper, Photo by Katharine Schulz

Rudolf and Garry were the members of Group B. They covered the area surrounding Delta Beach, observing various species along their survey. They walked along the beach itself as well as birding from their car as needed. Large numbers of shorebirds were spotted, including 126 Least Sandpiper, 100 peeps (unknown small shorebirds), 17 Semipalmated Plover and 52 Killdeer. They also observed large numbers of swallows, including 325 Bank Swallows, 161 Tree Swallows and 85 Purple Martins. They also took a swing over to the landfill on PR 227 after our lunch-time meet up to see what birds were around in addition to what Group C observed there.

As Group C Jo and Rob covered most of the area between PR 430 on east, to just west of Portage Creek and the PR 227 landfill. They also saw large numbers of birds including 1200 Franklin’s Gulls and 1088 Ring-billed Gulls, most of which were at the landfill. They also spotted 4 Red-headed Woodpeckers, a coveted bird of the year! (At least for us IBA staff who have been doing Red-head Woodpecker monitoring this year). In total, Group C observed 59 species.

Chatty Lesser Black-backed Gull, Photo by Garry Budyk

Alyssa and Theresa were our intrepid Clandeboye Group, who walked from St Ambroise Provincial Park west to Clandeboye Bay. They observed 28 species in total, with a mix of shorebirds, waterbirds and other species such as a Belted Kingfisher, a Great Blue Heron and a Black and White Warbler. The shorebirds they observed included Baird’s Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs.

A Merlin near Lynch’s Point. Photo by Katharine Schulz

Group D consisting of Pat, Doreen and Nate identified 45 species in total in the west portion of the marsh. They observed a variety of species including some shorebirds, various species of sparrow, hawks and waterbirds. An interesting sighting for them was the Eastern Wood-Peewee, a federal Species at Risk (special concern).

The IBA staff comprised Group E. We primarily birded while walking from where HWY 430 ends by the lake towards Twin Lakes beach. We noticed on our walk that the water level had been pushed back considerably due to drought conditions, leaving long stretches of empty shoreline. We observed 41 species including large numbers of Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Franklin’s Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants and 900 Brewer’s Blackbirds. We also saw what we thought may have been two separate families of Bald Eagles in their juvenile stage. The majority of shorebirds were seen closer to the end of HWY 430, with fewer seen near to Twin Lakes Beach.

Trying our best to count the birds while they move around! Photo by Amanda Shave

We all met up at the end of the blitz at the former boardwalk trail in the Delta Beach community for a well deserved snack in the shade. We got pretty lucky with the weather, as the morning was a lovely temperature. It was considerably hotter after our group get-together! In total we were able to identify 115 different species during the blitz. Again, a big thank you to everyone who came out! The full list of species identified and their counts can be found below.

Species Sum of Count
American Bittern4
American Crow41
American Goldfinch44
American Kestrel7
American Redstart2
American Robin14
American White Pelican412
Baird’s Sandpiper12
Bald Eagle22
Baltimore Oriole9
Bank Swallow461
Barn Swallow194
Belted Kingfisher3
Black Tern177
Black-and-white Warbler2
Black-billed Magpie11
Black-capped Chickadee5
Blue Jay7
Blue-winged Teal91
Bonaparte’s Gull137
Brewer’s Blackbird1062
Buff-breasted Sandpiper1
Buteo sp.1
Canada Goose32
Caspian Tern5
Cedar Waxwing15
Chipping Sparrow1
Clay-colored Sparrow19
Cliff Swallow12
Common Goldeneye1
Common Grackle37
Common Raven23
Common Tern16
Common Yellowthroat14
Cooper’s Hawk3
Double-crested Cormorant773
Downy Woodpecker5
Duck sp.14
Eastern Bluebird1
Eastern Kingbird131
Eastern Phoebe4
Eastern Wood-Pewee3
European Starling3
Forster’s Tern29
Franklin’s Gull3697
Gray Catbird19
Gray Partridge24
Great Blue Heron7
Great Egret16
Great Horned Owl1
Greater Yellowlegs164
Greater/Lesser Scaup2
Gull sp.1768
Hairy Woodpecker3
Herring Gull66
Hooded Merganser3
House Sparrow67
House Wren2
Least Flycatcher16
Least Sandpiper708
Lesser Black-backed Gull1
Lesser Scaup6
Lesser Yellowlegs382
Lincoln’s Sparrow1
Marsh Wren3
Mourning Dove78
Northern Flicker4
Northern Harrier13
Northern Pintail 1
Northern Shoveler2
Northern Waterthrush6
Olive-sided Flycatcher1
Orchard Oriole2
Pectoral Sandpiper62
Peep sp.200
Phalarope sp.60
Purple Finch1
Purple Martin143
Red-eyed Vireo3
Red-headed Woodpecker4
Red-necked Phalarope31
Red-tailed Hawk43
Red-winged Blackbird360
Ring-billed Gull2146
Rock Pigeon25
Rose-breasted Grosbeak4
Ruby-throated Hummingbird3
Sandhill Crane5
Savannah Sparrow28
Sedge Wren4
Semipalmated Plover30
Semipalmated Sandpiper144
Sharp-shinned Hawk1
Sharp-tailed Grouse2
Solitary Sandpiper3
Song Sparrow6
Sparrow sp.1
Spotted Sandpiper6
Stilt Sandpiper9
Tennessee Warbler3
Tree Swallow314
Turkey Vulture12
Virginia Rail3
Warbling Vireo8
Western Grebe5
Western Kingbird22
Western Meadowlark92
White-breasted Nuthatch3
White-rumped Sandpiper1
Wilson’s Phalarope131
Wood Duck6
Yellow Warbler96
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker5
Yellow-headed Blackbird36
Yellow-rumped Warbler2
Grand Total Individuals15196
Grand Total Species115 (+7 “sp”)


Oak Lake Red-Headed Woodpecker Blitz

We were fortunate enough to run our second event of the summer at Manitoba IBA on July 24th, a bird blitz out at Oak Lake/ Plum Lakes IBA. Our objective was to record all birds we saw but focus on finding Red-Headed Woodpeckers.

Oak Lake is a decent hike away from Winnipeg so the day began quite early for the IBA staff. After a three hour drive, we arrived at the Oak Lake/Plum Lake IBA. We were pleased to see that the area was relatively clear of smoke, after having so many days of limited visibility. We were a small group this day, with Group 1 consisting of Gillian, Kathryn and Katharine and Group 2 consisting of the IBA staff (Amanda, Vicky and I). A fourth volunteer, Glennis, formed an unofficial Group 3 at the last minute, and birded on her own to the north of Highway 1. We set out on two routes, with Group 1 taking an Eastern route and Group 2 taking a Southern route.

Photo by Vicky Tang of a curious cow. While no Red-headed Woodpeckers were seen in this pasture (no trees) the woodpeckers are often seen in areas with tree snags and cattle.

We also had two objectives on this blitz. The first was new for this year. We wanted to try setting up some Red-headed Woodpecker survey routes in and around the IBA. The objective of these specific routes is to follow very detailed protocol, hopefully picking up all possible Red-headed Woodpeckers in the area. It involved stopping every 300m in appropriate habitat, watching/listening for two minutes, using playback for 30 seconds and then watching for another two minutes. As this detailed protocol is not conducive to being able to move widely through the IBA (it can be quite slow if you are lucky enough to have a lot of good Red-headed Woodpecker habitat), outside of the survey routes, we completed our bird blitz in the familiar fashion.

Despite some suitable habitat, Group 2 (IBA staff) saw 5 Red-Headed Woodpeckers, including 3 in a previously known site and 2 in a new spot next to a farm. We could barely hear the two birds at the new site over the barks of a very curious dog. During our survey, It became clear that some of the habitat had changed over the years (compared to where Red-headed Woodpeckers have historically been sighted), with certain areas having lots of bushes grown in and new younger trees rather than taller dead ones, which isn’t ideal for the Woodpeckers. Other interesting sightings for our group included a Vesper Sparrow, 2 Swainson’s Hawks, 7 Red-tailed Hawks, and 4 American Kestrels. We also saw a large number of Red-winged Blackbirds, 175 at our best count! In total, our group spotted 24 different species.

Glennis investigated a possible Red Headed Woodpecker site where she thought she may have heard one, but could not get a positive IDs. Glennis and a few other group members searched this area (north of Highway 1 within the IBA) last year for Red-headed Woodpeckers but had no luck then either, despite seeing some possible decent habitat.

Group 1 had the most success with the Red Headed Woodpeckers. They saw at least 10 in total at 5 separate stops. Three Red-headed Woodpeckers were seen along the survey route just outside the IBA. There was a possible fourth individual but it was determined to likely be a repeat count as it flew into from the east (where a stop already occurred) in response to the playback. Seven Red-headed Woodpeckers were spotted inside the IBA. At this site two adults appeared to be feeding young in a nest (the young were not counted) so there were more individuals we could not count. A second site in the IBA had two individuals. Group 1 was able to identify a total of 45 species on their route. Some of their other interesting sightings include a Sprague’s pipit, an Eastern Wood-peewee and 2 Eastern Bluebirds. Sadly, bluebird numbers this year seem to be lower than previous years based on anecdotes from local birders. Another interesting sighting is the numerous European Starlings, which can be usually found in similar habitat to Red-Headed Woodpeckers. With recommendations from Group 2, we will likely be amending the Red-headed Woodpecker survey route next year to include some of mile road 137 W.

You might be wondering if we reached our IBA trigger threshold for Red-headed Woodpeckers. The threshold is 14 individuals inside an IBA. Unfortunately we only saw 12 individuals inside the IBA, so we didn’t quite make it, but we were close!

A lovely photo of an adult Red-headed Woodpecker captured by Katharine Schulz

Complicating the search for Red-headed Woodpeckers was the the dry, hot weather (and eventually windy). As we were doing our blitz round up and snacking at noon, all of a sudden a huge gust of wind started up – perhaps telling us that we should be on our way back to Winnipeg!

Thank you to our volunteers who braved the heat and strong wind to be with us! The full list of species counted is below! The map of our sightings and routes for the day is also below.

Mourning Dove17
Black Tern4
Turkey Vulture2
Northern Harrier1
Swainson’s Hawk2
Red-Tailed Hawk13
Red-Headed Woodpecker 13 (+3 outside the IBA)
Downy Woodpecker4
Northern Flicker5
American Kestrel 10
Eastern Wood Peewee2
Least Flycatcher9
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Western Kingbird1
Eastern Kingbird24
Warbling Vireo 15
Black-billed Magpie11
American Crow 20
Common Raven 24
Black Capped Chickadee 4
Tree swallow 5
Barn Swallow 23
Cliff swallow25
House Wren13
Marsh Wren 1
European Starling  30
Grey Catbird3
Eastern Bluebird2
American Robin 8
Cedar Waxwing1
Sprague’s pipit 1
American Goldfinch 14
Chipping sparrow1
Clay-coloured sparrow2
Lark sparrow  1
Vesper Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow9
Song Sparrow8
Western Meadowlark37
Baltimore Oriole 7
Red winged Blackbird189
Brewers Blackbird20
Common Grackle 2
Yellow Warbler 4
Pileated Woodpecker1
blackbird sp. 20
Hawk sp. 1
Total Number of Birds617
Total Number of Species48

Green pins represent Group 2 sightings while Red pins represent Group 1 sightings.

The Oak Hammock Marsh Grassland Bird Search

Get your binoculars and rev up your engines! A as the morning arrived on July 17th, it was good weather (albeit hot) for a grassland bird search in Oak Hammock Marsh. We had our volunteers enjoy a nice walk and drive to the west side of the grasslands, exploring the tall-grass prairie to the north mound.

With the IBA Steering Committee a-okay, we conjured up our first public event of the year! COVID-19 protocols were maintained safely by us and our volunteers. Thank you to Pat, Carla, Al, and Cindy for joining us in the morning for a tour in the grasslands.  

Amanda and I arrived at the meeting location at 6:50 AM, to scope out the area and in case any one came early. There were significantly more mosquitoes here than in the city, ouch! Good thing Amanda was fully prepared with bug spray, sunscreen, juice, and snacks. First thing in the morning were the distinct and gentle calls of the Mourning Dove and a busy Eastern Kingbird, flying back and forth across the road.

When three vehicles stopped at the shorebird scrape, we knew they were kindred birders for sure. Lo and behold, they were indeed our volunteers for today! They made their way to the gathering spot by just after 8:00 AM. Pat said she saw a Willet over at the scrape, which got everyone excited. We were ready to go, and so began our route. We managed to avoid (most) of the midday heat and in our respective vehicles. The map below traces our path through the grasslands and past the canola fields.

Map of our route including both driving and walking portions

We first started our route with a quick walk by the west side of the interpretive centre. Our first find, and a species we would encounter a few more times on the route were the Marsh (1) and Sedge (4) Wrens. They played a little game of peek-a-boo in the tall grass, making it difficult to get a good look, but their calls were distinct.

We then drove up to the path through the tall-grass prairie habitat north of the Interpretive Centre. The species that dominated the grasslands and wetland habitat mix were Savannah Sparrows (26), Clay-coloured Sparrows (25), and Red-winged Blackbirds (25). We heard four Common Yellowthroats and saw five Mallards fly by. There were a few mourning doves (4) calling in the distance from time to time, and we had one spotting of a Cedar Waxwing. At the end of our route, we stopped by a bridge, swarmed by swallows! It was a mix of Bank (3), Cliff (3), and Barn (30) Swallows to our best guess. It was difficult to tell exact numbers as they swirled around over and under the bridge. A Northern Harrier zoomed in on the Swallows out of nowhere and almost flew directly at us! However, the little birds started to bully the Harrier into a different direction. We had also seen another Harrier further back on the route. It was flying low in an empty field. It must have found something delectable there.

We saw only two Western Meadowlarks on the way there. We were expecting more Meadowlarks on the route, but they were mysteriously hard to find, we suspected a predator may have been in the area. And indeed, just down the road a raptor was scouting the from a hay bale (too far away to determine more than a silhouette), likely keeping the Meadowlarks at bay. On our way back, there was no sign of the raptor and we saw five more Meadowlarks – more what we had expected!

We had a catch of a Sharp-tailed Grouse flying by! It was quite fast, and I could not tell what it was, but Amanda recognized it instantly. We had an even rarer find further up the path. Right where the road curves right, we saw two Dickcissels! Unfortunately, they were against the sun and only briefly in sight before they flew off into the bushes. They were flying over the road a few times. Amanda had seen them earlier before the 17th when she was preparing the route, and sure enough, they were still there!  

Overall, it was a nice warm-up event to meet the volunteers! Thank you again to Cindy, Al, Pat, and Carla for joining us. A list that summarizes the total birds we encountered can be found below.


August IBA Events

We are excited to be holding three events this August and hope to see you there!

Our first event is a bird blitz at Delta Marsh IBA on Saturday, August 14th. Join us starting at 7:00 am for a morning of birding in small groups before we end with a group round-up and refreshments. Email to sign up or for more information.

On Friday, August 20th we will hold a weedpull at Riverton Sandy Bar IBA. Join us at 8:00 am for refreshments before we head out onto the sand bar to pull invasive weeds, restoring the habitat for the threatened shorebirds that use this habitat. It also wouldn’t be an IBA event without some birding as well! Email to sign up or for more information.

Join us at one of western Manitoba’s best birding destinations. We will be focusing our blitz on shorebirds, but other waterbirds, warblers, and more are also sure to delight! This event is on Saturday, August 28th starting at 8:30 am. We will have a group round-up with refreshments at the end of the morning.