Spring is Arriving!

Reports have been coming in recently about some of our early arriving migratory birds! The first Canada Goose in an IBA was reported on March 16th at Oak Hammock Marsh. In more urban environments the first Peregrine Falcon was spotted on March 17th at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg and identified as Hart the next day.

First Canada Goose sighting at Oak Hammock Marsh WMA. Photo from Oak Hammock Marsh.

For many of us the long Manitoba winters mean we go 4-6 months without practicing our ID skills for many of our migratory birds. If you are getting into birding for the first time, or looking for some options to refresh your bird identification skills, or get into citizen science here are just a few free resources to keep you up to date on the sights and sounds of birds in the spring.

1. Check out various webinars

The Manitoba IBA Program spring webinars series is gearing up for April and May. We will be including some bird identification webinars in our mix this year along with some exciting new topics. Stay tuned for the announcement soon! In the meantime, the majority of our past webinars are available to watch on the IBA Manitoba Youtube account here. These webinars are specific to birding in Manitoba and include Grassland Birds, Shorebirds, Wetlands Birds and Bird Species at Risk.

2. Field Guide Apps for sights and sounds

If you are more likely to carry your cell phone along with you than a printed bird guide, consider using a free mobile app like Merlin. You can download “bird packs” local to your area, and once downloaded it can be used without an internet connection. You can browse through birds as you would in a field guide, or you can try giving a description, taking a photo or sound recording of your mystery bird and see if Merlin can identify it for you. There many different birding apps to choose from, some free and some paid.

If you are not into electronics while birding, but don’t want to carry around a bird ID book, the Manitoba IBA program has several habitat-based quick ID guides that are available for free both on our website and as a printed copy. Grassland birds, shorebirds, wetland birds and birds of Churchill and the Nelson River Estuary are all available.

3. eBird.org

eBird.org is a strong resource for birders and I am always learning about new ways to use it. eBird uses birding checklists submitted by citizen scientists to track abundance and distribution of birds across the landscape. We use the eBird “IBA Protocol” to track birds within our Manitoba IBAs by our volunteers. They even have a mobile app that lets you enter your birding checklists without an internet connection! You can also use the maps and bar charts to explore when are where certain species are sighted historically, or more recently. There is way too much to describe here, but you can check out these guides to getting started on eBird.org or eBird mobile app prior to spring migration!

Example of a bar chart generated for Whitewater Lake IBA for bird timings. April is coming up fast with migratory bird sightings to become more and more common!

Map generated from eBird that shows locations of White-faced Ibis sightings in the last five years. You can change species, locations and dates to see what birds and found where (and when).

4. BirdCast

BirdCast is a website that uses weather surveillance radar to create bird migration forecast maps, real-time migration maps and local bird migration alerts. Unfortunately, the maps only extend to the Canada-US border, but as concentrations of birds move through the United States on spring migration, we can use the maps to predict when they might arrive in Manitoba. There are many studies that show strong ties between weather and migration rates. Additionally, large numbers of birds actually show up on Doppler radar themselves!

Example of a bird forecast predicted by BirdCast. I watch for areas of migration intensity to move towards the Canada/ USA border, and then I know that they will be in southern Manitoba shortly.

Did we miss anything you consider essential to gear up to spring migration? Let us know!