Manitoba IBA’s First Bird Blitz of 2020

Shoal Lakes Bird Blitz Poster

We are excited to be hosting our first bird blitz of 2020! Normally I would have written that first sentence in May, but better late than never in this crazy year. We will be on the lookout for Red Headed Woodpeckers, which have been seen here in 2018 and 2019.

Due to the physical distancing with COVID-19 we may need to limit attendance (depending on sign-up numbers), so please sign up early if you are interested. We will also be asking attendees to only carpool with others within their social distancing bubbles, and carpool caravan will go out along routes. For registration, or if you have any questions or concerns please send me an email at iba@naturemanitoba.ca.

Stay tuned for more upcoming IBA events!

 

Grassland Bird Surveys in Southwestern Manitoba

From June 15th to June 25th Nate and I headed out to southwestern Manitoba to conduct grassland bird surveys in the Poverty Plains, Lyleton Grasslands, Blind Souris River Valley, Oak Lake Grasslands and Hartney regions. Many of these areas overlap with the Southwestern Manitoba Mixed Grass Prairie IBA or the Oak Lake/ Plum Lake IBA.

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Grassland in the Broomhill area. Photo by Amanda Shave.

We surveyed areas of primarily native grassland (and some pieces of tame grassland) used by cattle producers in Manitoba. We were looking primarily for bird species that use the grassland, particularly Species at Risk. These species include the Chestnut-collared Longspur, Bobolink, Baird’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipet, Ferruginous Hawk, Burrowing Owl, Loggerhead Shrike and Grasshopper Sparrow. All of these species were seen, in addition to many more!

Survey mornings started early, with Nate and I arriving at the survey sites at sunrise, and we would survey until 10:00 am (weather permitting). The survey methods for grassland bird surveys included a series of point counts. Every 300-400 metres we would take a GPS reading and stand in one place for 5 minutes surveying by sight and sound in all directions. All species observed are recorded, and the distance, direction and Breeding Bird Atlas breeding code recorded for each Species at Risk. While traveling between point count sites, Species at Risk were recorded if seen incidentally, and their location marked with a GPS point. The number of point counts differed depending on the size of the land parcel surveyed, and the habitat it contains. In addition to being 300-400 meters away from each other point count, they are also at least 100 meters from fence lines to try and capture grassland birds, as opposed to species that are using marginal habitat along roadways.

We also had the chance to speak with some of the landowners in the area, who were both knowledgeable and interested about the bird species that can be found on their land. They were very interested in the bird surveys we were doing, and how the management of cattle on their pastures can impact bird habitat.

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Cattle on the land in the Blind Souris area. Photo by Amanda Shave.

Non-target species that were some trip highlights included Orchard Orioles, a Say’s Phoebe, some up close Coyote encounters, Mule Deer, and a great variety of wildflowers and grasses. Native grasslands in Manitoba have a particular beauty that is more subtle than that of a mountain or ocean view, but I would argue that the need to look and listen closely makes it all the more special as you bird in this unique part of Manitoba.

Welcome to our Summer Assistants!

Manitoba Important Birds Areas is excited to welcome Alyssa and Nathan to our program for summer 2020. Alyssa will be working with both the IBA program and the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative (MCSI), and Nathan will be primarily working on the Grassland Bird portion of our IBA program. Please give them a warm welcome!

Alyssa

Hi folks, my name is Alyssa and I am working this summer as a Manitoba Program Assistant, primarily focusing on our Chimney Swift program. Very fittingly, my first day is a Swift night!

I obtained my BSc from the University of Regina where I spent most summers doing a variety of fieldwork for graduate students. A lot of this work focused on researching bats, but I have also researched western painted turtles and common nighthawks. In fact, the first bird I ever held was a common nighthawk (which I admit was a tad scary the first time). I’ve always loved wildlife, but it was in these positions where I knew conservation was becoming my passion.

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A where’s Waldo situation with this common nighthawk. Photo by Alyssa Stulberg

Currently I am also pursuing my MSc in Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy at the University of Winnipeg in what is known as “the bat lab”. For my thesis I am investigating potential methods to inhibit the growth of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus causing white-nose syndrome, in environments where bats hibernate. While my degree has nothing to do with birds, it has been during my time as a graduate student where my appreciation for birds has really flourished. I have spent time volunteering at Oak Hammock Marsh and Last Mountain Lake assisting with migratory bird banding efforts, as well as goose banding with the Canadian Wildlife Service. And like many of you, I have spent a lot of time birding! I am very excited to be joining the team and will be spending many days monitoring our aerial-insectivorous-feathered-friends!

Nathan

Hello there! My name is Nathan and I’m the newest member of Manitoba’s IBA crew.

I have graduated from Lakeland College with a diploma in wildlife and fisheries conservation and am working towards my bachelors degree in resource management, majoring in fish and wildlife, at the University of Northern British Columbia. I’ve had field experience working with fish as a part of Ducks Unlimited’s restoring the tradition program in delta marsh as well as ground squirrel research with the University of Manitoba. After studying fish and mammals I figured it’s about time to study birds!

I have a passion for conservation outreach and have spent two seasons as a nature interpreter at Fortwhyte Alive where I earned/gave myself the nickname ‘Nature Nate’. My most memorable moment there was seeing a green heron take flight from shore as this is when I truly fell in love with birds. When I’m not looking for critters you can find me at your local open mic comedy night cracking nature jokes and teaching bird calls to the audience.

 

Manitoba Important Birds Area Grasslands and Grassland Bird Identification Webinar + Link to Wetland Bird Webinar

IBA Manitoba Grasslands Poster

A big thank you for everyone who attended our recent webinar on Identification of Manitoba Prairie Wetland Birds. If you missed it, a recording of the webinar is available online on the Manitoba IBA program’s Youtube page.

We will be hosting our third webinar on Grasslands and Identification of Manitoba Grassland Birds on Thursday, June 4th at 1:00 pm CT. Presenters for this webinar will be myself, as Coordinator of the Manitoba IBA program, and Rebekah Neufeld, the Acting Science Manager for Manitoba at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

To register for the Grasslands webinar please email iba@naturemanitoba.ca. We hope to see you (virtually) there!

Manitoba IBA is Hiring a Summer Assistant

We are looking for a summer student for this summer, funded via the Canada Summer Jobs Program. Here are the details.

Manitoba Important Bird Areas Program Assistant

The Manitoba Important Bird Area (IBA) Program is hiring a Program Assistant. This position is based out of Winnipeg, or remotely depending on the successful candidate, and includes travel to various IBAs in southern Manitoba, with periods of time in the Souris River Watershed District. The position is a 280-hour contract at $15/hr depending on experience – start date June 2020.

For more information on the Manitoba IBA program, visit: http://importantbirdareasmb.ca.

Responsibilities

Working closely with the IBA Coordinator, the responsibilities of the Program Assistant are to:

  • Conduct monitoring for Avian Species at Risk in southwestern Manitoba for a significant period of the contract
  • Assist with monitoring populations of threatened birds and landowner outreach in Manitoba’s IBAs including in southwestern Manitoba;
  • Assist with organising events and activities for the Manitoba IBA Program;
  • Monitor the threatened Chimney Swift in urban areas of Manitoba, including southwestern Manitoba;
  • Work remotely with citizen scientists to assist in data collection, data entry and analysis for the threatened Chimney Swift;
  • Research and develop educational materials for landowners and the general public to promote Manitoba’s IBAs and Chimney Swifts;
  • Assist with Manitoba IBA blog site and social media set-up;
  • Assist with volunteer and partner communications via email and phone;
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications

The successful applicant will have:

  • A minimum of 2 years of post-secondary education in biology, conservation or environmental science degree / diploma program
  • Knowledge of and demonstrated interest in the natural history of Manitoba
  • A keen interest in, knowledge of and ability to identify birds in Manitoba
  • Previous experience in environmental education and outreach is a strong asset
  • Experience with & knowledge of WordPress, Facebook and the Microsoft Office suite
  • Exceptional written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Ability to work well as a team and independently
  • Willing to drive to remote locations in southwestern Manitoba and do overnight stays if necessary (rental or use of own car permitted and expenses will be covered)

Interested in applying?

Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible for the position:

  • youth aged 15 to 30,
  • valid Class 5 driver’s licence,
  • living in Manitoba, and
  • legally entitled to work in Canada.

How to Apply:

Interested applicants should forward their resume and short 1-page cover letter as 1 PDF file by email to the IBA Coordinator at iba@naturemanitoba.ca (Subject line: IBA Program Assistant) by June 1st, 2020.

Only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.

 

Manitoba Important Birds Area Wetland Bird Identification Webinar + Link to Shorebird Webinar

 

IBA Manitoba Wetlands Poster

A big thank you for everyone who attended our recent webinar on Identification of Manitoba Shorebirds. If you missed it, a recording of the webinar is available online on the Manitoba IBA program’s Youtube page.

We will be hosting our second webinar on Identification of Manitoba’s Wetland birds on Tuesday, May 26th at 1:00 pm CT. Our guest presenter this time is Paula Grieef. Paula is a Resident Naturalist at Oak Hammock Park Interpretive Centre, a longtime member of our IBA Manitoba Steering Committee, and a Board Member for the Delta Marsh Bird Observatory at Oak Hammock Marsh WMA.

To register for the Wetland Birds webinar please email iba@naturemanitoba.ca. We hope to see you (virtually) there!

 

IBA Manitoba Spring Webinar Series

Shorebirds Poster

I am excited to announce the first webinar of a new series held by the Manitoba Important Bird Areas Program. Although we cannot hold a spring shorebird workshop in-person this year, please join us electronically to learn or brush up on your shorebird identification skills with Dr. Christian Artuso.

Dr. Christian Artuso is dedicated ornithologist and conservationist with many of years working with our local birding scene in Manitoba. Christian has been key in helping to set up the International Shorebird Survey (ISS) in Manitoba. He coordinated our Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas and has been a member of the Manitoba Important Bird Areas Program Steering Committee since its inception. A big thank you to Christian to start us off on this series as our guest speaker.

Our Shorebirds webinar will take place on May 13, 2020 at 1:00pm CT. Please register by emailing iba@naturemanitoba.ca. We hope to see you (virtually) there!

 

 

Birding at Home

While this is a challenging time both globally at here at home, here at IBA Manitoba we are encouraging you to keep up with birding as we move into the spring! Below are some links that can bring a little birding into your day.

 

Backyard Birding

Whether you are a beginner or experienced birder, now is the perfect time to start backyard birding. You don’t even need a backyard, a window or balcony with a view of the sky will work as well. You can even start a yard list of different birds and when you first see them (or use eBird.org to enter sightings into a citizen science database) to keep a record of your sightings. It can certainly help to have a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide (book, app or website) handy!

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/ – All About Birds is a website run by Cornell University that has a variety of birding resources from bird identification, to life history information and species range maps.

https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/ – A bird identification app for Android and iPhone also developed by Cornell University.

Bird Guides – There are a number of bird guides available that cover Manitoba. Some are broken down into Eastern or Western North America (Manitoba falls right in the middle, but personally I’ve always gone with Eastern), others cover all of North America.

 

Manitoba Stay-at-Home Nocturnal Owl Survey

Normally around this time, Nocturnal Owl surveys are being conducted by volunteers all around rural Manitoba. Due to the need to stay near home, the nocturnal owl surveys are now being done by volunteers our own backyards. Surveys are conducted 40 minutes after sunset. Surveys last 5 minutes each, where volunteers look and listen for number, species and direction of owls. And don’t forget zero counts (i.e. no owls) are important results for science as well! Currently this citizen science program is ending April 20th 2020, but you can certainly count for yourself after that period as well!

https://importantbirdareasmb.ca/manitoba-stay-at-home-nocturnal-owl-survey-form/ – Link to the Google Docs reporting form on Manitoba IBA’s website and for more information.

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A backyard owl (although out during the afternoon). By Amanda Shave

Nature Manitoba’s 100 Birds for 100 Years

As part of their 100th anniversary, Nature Manitoba is holding a contest for people to see 100 bird species during 2020. Check out the website for a downloadable version of the bird list. It includes birding for beginner to expert skill levels.

http://naturemanitoba.ca/100-birds-100-years

 

Update your Birding Skill Level

No matter your current skill level, there is always room for improvement! Expand your knowledge of birding by sight or sound. Once we can resume our normal activities, you’ll be able to wow your friends and family with your knowledge of birds.

Helpful links:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/ – All About Birds is a website run by Cornell University that has a variety of birding resources from bird identification, to life history information, species range maps and more.

https://www.xeno-canto.org/– A free worldwide data base of bird calls and sounds. It can be interesting to hear the regional dialects of some bird species.

https://ebird.org/explore– A citizen science database that is used primarily for citizen science. It also has resources such as videos, recordings, photos and range maps for species found in Manitoba and around the world.

 

Excited for Birds Arriving in Spring?

There are a number of websites that track the arrival of birds on spring migration. Some websites are species specific, while others are general. Below are a few to increase your anticipation:

ebird.org – The bar charts function (https://ebird.org/GuideMe?cmd=changeLocation) comprised of citizen science data reported in past years gives an estimation of the timing (and species abundance) for a specific location throughout the year. You can also use the “Species Map” function with the “current year” to track birds moving on spring migration (https://ebird.org/map).

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Example bar chart for Oak Hammock Marsh IBA (eBird.org)

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Example species map for Cliff Swallows sightings as of April 14, 2020 (eBird.org)

https://birdcast.info/– Unfortunately BirdCast only tracks birds in the U.S.A., however their method is very neat! They use an array of weather satellites that can pick up on the high densities of birds that travel on spring migration. These densities of birds are then plotted on a map, similar to how meteorologists show precipitation maps on your local news. You can watch birds as they arrive up to the U.S.A./ Canada border.

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BirdCast by Cornell Laboratory

Virtual Birding

There are a number of organizations and individuals that host cameras trained on bird feeders, migration stopover sites or nest camera. See below for a few favourites (some may not have started up yet for the season).

http://www.species-at-risk.mb.ca/pefa/r-resources.html – Peregrine Falcon Cameras (includes cameras in Winnipeg and Brandon).

https://video.nest.com/live/w3xeU1YLng and http://67.215.63.156/mobile/main.html?lang=en&_=0.4702988833454287 – Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre cameras on bird feeders and the marsh respectively.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/all-cams/ – AllAboutBirds.org also hosts a large variety of bird cameras year-round from around the world.

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Bird feeder camera at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre

Safe Birding Guidelines

Lastly, no matter how you bird, remember to follow safe birding guidelines. This includes normal advice such as giving birds a respectable distance when observing them, to remembering to social distance if you leave your home.

https://ebird.org/canada/news/please-bird-mindfully – eBird Canada on birding mindfully.

https://www.birdscanada.org/responding-to-covid-19-what-birds-canada-is-doing-and-how-you-can-help/ – Birds Canada response to birding during COVID-19.

A Note to IBA Manitoba Volunteers

As with many organizations, we are currently working to adapt our short and longer-term plans to deal with the realities of COVID-19. While indoor events that we have held in past springs are currently on hold, we are hoping to continue our work at outdoor events and activities under current government advice. If advice from the government changes, we will change our plans accordingly. As always we encourage volunteers to monitor IBAs using the IBA Protocol on eBird.ca (https://www.ibacanada.com/documents/eBird_IBA_protocol_EN.pdf) and continuing to count shorebirds under the International Shorebird Survey (https://importantbirdareasmb.ca/2018/08/13/the-international-shorebird-survey-iss-in-manitoba-an-encouraging-start/). We still hope that you will consider continuing to contribute to the program by monitoring independently in this way.

For now, Manitoba IBA continues to look forward to the spring and the arrival of our many feathered friends!

Greater Yellowlegs_9667Greater Yellowlegs. Copyright Manitoba IBA Program.

COSEWIC Updates in 2019

As we end off 2019 here is a quick overview of COSEWIC status changes for two birds that we see in our Manitoba Important Bird Areas.

COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) is an independent advisory panel that provides information to the Minister of Environment and Climate change in Canada. They are responsible for identifying and assessing the conservation status of wildlife species in Canada.

 

Hudsonian Godwit

This large shorebird was assessed by COSEWIC in May 2019 as “Threatened”. Previously it had no status under COSEWIC, and currently has no status under SARA Schedule 1. While populations on the breeding grounds are not well monitored, the monitoring on migration and the nonbreeding grounds indicate substantial recent population declines.

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Hudsonian Godwit. Copyright by Christian Artuso.

The Hudsonian Godwit breeds in the arctic, with its Manitoba range near Churchill. It is a long-distance migrant that travels to the southern third of South America. Northern Manitoba residents may see the Hudsonian Godwit during migration and breeding seasons in northern IBAs such as Nelson River Estuary and Marsh Point IBA and Kaskattama River Mouth IBA. Those of us in southern Manitoba can see the Hudsonian Godwit in our IBAs in Manitoba as they pass through in the spring and fall on migration.

Threats to the Hudsonian Godwit identified by the COSEWIC committee on the breeding ground include a decrease in suitability for nesting and prey availability due to climate change and an over abundance of geese. Threats at the nonbreeding grounds include loss of habitat and disturbance in South America.

In 2019 Hudsonian Godwits were seen at IBA events in both the spring and autumn at Whitewater Lake IBA. If you are interested in seeing Hudsonian Godwits and other shorebirds in 2020 be sure to stay on the lookout for our Shorebird Blitzes and/or International Shorebird Survey opportunities.

 

Chestnut-collared Longspur

Just last month (November 2019) the Chestnut-collard Longspur was reassessed from Threatened to Endangered by COSEWIC. It is still listed as Threatened under SARA Schedule 1. There has been a long-term decline of 95% of Chestnut-collared Longspurs since the 1970s. COSEWIC also lists a range contraction of the Chestnut-collared Longspur to the south and west. This fits with what we have seen in Manitoba where these birds can be seen in the southwestern corner of the province, when previously they were recorded near to Winnipeg and even at Oak Hammock Marsh according to The Birds of Manitoba.

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Chestnut-collared Longspur. Copyright by Christian Artuso.

In Manitoba this flashy grassland bird breeds in the southwestern corner of the province. It requires large continuous parcels of grassland for breeding. The Chestnut-collared Longspur’s nonbreeding range extends throughout the southwestern United States and into northern Mexico.

The main threat identified by COSEWIC for the Chestnut-collared Longspur is habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. This is impacting the Longspur in both its breeding ground in Canada, as well as its nonbreeding range in northern Mexico.

Both the Southwestern Mixed-grass Prairie IBA and the Ellis-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures IBA have held continentally important occurrences of the Chestnut-collared Longspur in recent summers.