With our recent wintery weather, you might not be thinking about your local wetlands, but February 2, 2022 is World Wetlands Day.
Today is a great day to reflect on your favourite local wetland. Do you visit in the spring for birding? Do you go canoeing or fishing in the summer? Do you go hiking in the fall? Do you snowshoe across it in the winter?
Wetlands play a huge role in as habitat for both breeding and migrating birds, and is key habitat in our Manitoba IBAs. While not all of our IBAs are designated specifically for wetlands, almost all of them contain wetlands within their boundaries. For example, the Southwestern Manitoba Mixed-grass Prairie IBA contains a lot of – you guessed it- prairie, but also has a variety of large and small prairie wetlands. These prairie wetlands support breeding shorebirds such as Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope and American Avocet, and breeding waterfowl such as the Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and Gadwell, just to name a couple of species of each.
Of course, we also have a number of IBAs that were developed specifically because they contain wetlands. These include Delta Marsh IBA, Douglas Marsh IBA, Big Grass Marsh and Langruth IBA, Netley-Libau Marsh IBA, Sandy Bay Marshes IBA, Marshy Point and Saskatchewan River Delta IBA. Many of our northern IBAs that border Hudson Bay also include a variety of marshes, bogs, sedge meadows and fens, which are all different types of wetlands.
Our IBAs also include human-constructed or restored wetland habitat, such as Oak Hammock Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Oak Hammock Marsh was originally a wetland, but was largely drained for agriculture. In 1967 the provincial and federal governments, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and other conservation organizations and local landowners starting working to restore the wetlands to what we see today. The marsh is managed through a series of dikes, wetland cells and artificial islands that move and store the water across the landscape. Additionally, The Manitoba IBA program, the Province of Manitoba and Harry J. Enns Wetland Discovery Centre staff collaborated to create our province’s first shorebird scrape in 2020 at Oak Hammock. Shorebird scrapes are a feature that holds water in a depression on the landscape, creating mudflat habitat within a wetland. We saw many wetland birds using the scrape via trail camera, and through eBird checklists last season. The scrape was expanded further this past fall! While currently under ice and snow, the scrape is an excellent spring birding destination at Oak Hammock Marsh.