Media Catch-up From The Announcement of Our New IBA

We had a fair bit of media interest following last weeks announcement of our new IBA at the Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures. Here is a summary, please click on the links to read or listen to the stories:

  • Christian Artuso, Manitoba IBA Steering Committee Chair and MB Programs Director for Bird Studies Canada was interviewed in French for Radio Canada. You can listen to his interview at 6:47 by clicking the link – Radio Canada.
  • CBC also published a story on their website in French featuring quotes from Christian, Tim Poole and  – CBC French.
  • It seems like MSN picked up the same story – MSN.
  • Bryce Hoye interviewed Tim and the Spy Hill-Ellice Pasture Manager, Zane Fredbjornson for the CBC website, this time in English. Extracts of the interviews also featured in news headlines – CBC English.
  • CBC Saskatchewan also interviewed Christian – CBC SK.
  • CBC posted a link on their Facebook page – CBC Facebook
  • The same story was featured by Yahoo News – Yahoo news.
  • Tim and Zane were also interviewed for a piece in the Manitoba Cooperator – MB Cooperator.
  • The same publication also mentioned the IBA designation in a piece about the relationship between cattle and biodiversity featuring Manitoba Sustainable Development Species At Risk Technician, Ken De Smet, and some fascinating background on the recent travails of Burrowing Owls, Ferruginous Hawk and Loggerhead Shrike – MB Cooperator, De Smet.
  • CKDM Radio briefly featured the story on their website – CKDM. Tim Poole was also interviewed for the news program.
  • Nature Manitoba published the story on their website and monthly newsletter – Nature MB.
  • On a related note, The Manitoba Cooperator published a story on conservation and the beef industry following a session at the recent Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference in Winnipeg. The story featured interviews with award winning producer from the Southwestern Manitoba Mixed-grass Prairie IBA, Curtis Gervin, Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation CEO and Manitoba IBA Steering Committee member, Tim Sopuck, and Christian – Manitoba Cooperator.

There are a couple more publications and interviews still to be published, in which case these will be added to this list at a later date. Feel free to send us any news reports that you have found at

Win a $50 Co-op Gas Card – New Manitoba IBA Contest for 2019!

The Manitoba IBA Program is delighted that Red River Co-op will be supporting a new initiative to get more people to submit birding records to the program and using our data portal, eBird. Each month from spring to fall, we will set a monthly prize draw for a $50 Co-op gas card. Each month will have a different theme. The rules are simple for anyone wishing to enter:

  1. Each eBird checklist submitted to the program will be eligible as long as:
    1. It is within the boundary of any of Manitoba’s 36 IBAs (for a list of all our Manitoba IBAs, you can simply look at our updated map, clicking here) and;
    2. The checklist is submitted using the IBA Canada Protocol, or if the monitoring is for shorebirds, the International Shorebird Survey (90% should be the former). Here is more information on using the IBA Canada Protocol.
  2. Email the program at, so we can set up a link to your eBird account. You will need to share your eBird profile name so we can set up a direct link with our account.
  3. Once complete, share your checklist with our account, username being ManitobaIBA (one word).
  4. Each single eligible checklist will be submitted to the contest via a randomised draw (we will use an Excel spreadsheet randomiser to make it fair). The winner will be contacted and then announced early the following month.
  5. Anyone is eligible to enter, except members of the staff from the Manitoba IBA Program.

If you are not an eBird user, do not despair. We have developed a new tool to upload your information to eBird. There is now an online form on our website to match the IBA reporting cards which we have produced, or are producing for each IBA. These will also be included in the contest, with one entry for every day that a bird submission is made via this form. You can see the form, and how easy it is to use at this link.

The first contest will be for March. As this is a shortened month, both for birding in IBAs, and with the long winter, we have made it simple.

For any bird observation submitted during the month of March from any IBA, you will be eligible for the contest.

Happy Birding!

March 2019 IBA Contest Poster

Announcement – Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures Important Bird and Biodiversity Area

Bird Studies Canada, Nature Manitoba and Nature Saskatchewan are delighted to announce a new Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures IBA contains significant breeding populations of two globally threatened bird species, a host of other priority birds, and impressive biodiversity.  “Bird Studies Canada is thrilled to designate this new site and to support the essential role that Community Pastures play in keeping birds and biodiversity on the landscape,” said Andrew Couturier, Senior Director, Landscape Science and Conservation with Bird Studies Canada.

Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures (read full profile here)


The Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures IBA is located near Spy Hill in Saskatchewan, and Birtle and St Lazare in Manitoba. This is the first Manitoba IBA to  cross the provincial boundary into Saskatchewan, although the Saskatchewan River Delta and Cumberland Marshes IBAs are part of a huge adjoining wetland complex between Cumberland House and The Pas. The Spy Hill-Ellice Community Pasture nestles between the Assiniboine and Qu-Appelle River Valleys, with the Ellice-Archie Community Pasture bordered by the Assiniboine River on the east, and a smaller river valley to the west.


Original map can be downloaded from the IBA Canada website (

The Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures take you back to a time long gone. A time when an ocean of grass would spread over the prairies. The experience of wildness begins in the base of the Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle River Valleys. The tall riparian woodlands provide a home for a chorus of migrating and breeding songbirds during May and June.  Climbing the valley sides, the riparian forest phases into an intermediate oak-aspen scrub. Both Eastern and Spotted Towhees breed here – and probably the occasional hybrid can be seen as well. It is only once you climb through the scrub zone that you reach the climax, a sea of grass on the plateau at the top of the valleys.


Looking back into the valley, an image of Manitoba’s prairie past. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

The Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures are shaped by history. That history is shaped by the combination of nature and people. The grassland ecosystem would once have been conserved by natural processes, including climate, wildfire and grazing by large herbivores, notably Plains Bison. Some of this area was broken prior to the 1930’s. The dirty thirties define this area in modern history. The Community Pastures were established in the 1930’s as PFRA sites (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration), following years of drought. Drought caused widespread crop failure on lands poorly suited for cultivation, and this led to alternative land-uses being sought. Grass species, notably native species, are drought tolerant and provide land cover which reduces erosion, leading to the establishment of these pastures across Manitoba and Saskatchewan


It is rare to find an area in Manitoba with grass this widespread. Copyright Christian Artuso

Interest in the Community Pastures peaked in the past few years following the federal governments decision to divest the management of Community Pastures to provincial control. In Manitoba, this led to the establishment of the Association of Manitoba Community Pastures (AMCP). The grasslands of the Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill-Ellice Community Pastures are primarily native mixed-grass prairie, with some smaller patches of tame non-native grass species.

The two pastures are managed by professional Pasture Managers employed by AMCP. AMCP is a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors composed of pasture patrons.  Overall it manages 20 community pastures across Manitoba, and is a significant contributor to the conservation of grassland Species At Risk in Manitoba.

The Province of Manitoba awarded AMCP the 2017 Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Award for Water and Natural Areas Stewardship.   The Award recognizes AMCP’s range management practices, the numerous environmental benefits of the community pasture program, as well as support for Manitoba’s cattle industry and rural communities.  The specific management activities that support healthy grasslands undertaken by dedicated staff include:

  • Maintenance of large, intact areas;
  • Moderate/sustainable stocking rates;
  • Managed grazing rotations adjusted annually;
  • Work done by horseback to protect the lands; and
  • Range health assessments and long-term land management planning.

Significant Birds and Biodiversity

AMCP is supported by the Range Implementation and Management Group (RIMG). RIMG is comprised of government agencies (Manitoba Agriculture and Manitoba Sustainable Development), a crown corporation (Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation) and non-government organisations (Nature Conservancy of Canada and Bird Studies Canada).

Members of the RIMG are involved in monitoring the wider environment around these Community Pastures. It was during these monitoring sessions that it became apparent that Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill-Ellice were special. Dr. Christian Artuso of Bird Studies Canada carried out point counts in 2017, finding 151 species of birds, including 15 Species At Risk. Of those Species of Risk, some were migrants (Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rusty Blackbird, Harris Sparrow), some were woodland, scrub and riparian breeding species (Bank Swallow, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Whip-Poor-Will), and some were grassland birds.

Eastern Whip-poor-will_Artuso

Eastern Whip-poor-will, cryptic, handsome, yet highly threatened. This woodland species breeds in the IBA. Copyright Christian Artuso

According to various reports, grassland birds are one of the most under threat groups of birds in North America (see State of Canada’s Birds, 2012 for example). Significant populations of two globally vulnerable species of bird breed in these pastures. Sprague’s Pipit numbers are truly impressive. 146 calling males were counted in 2017 across a sample portion of both community pastures.

Sprague's Pipit_3112_Artuso

It may not look like much, but boy you should hear these guys sing! Sprague’s Pipit provide a cascading flight song, echoing across the prairie. Copyright Christian Artuso

The highest total count of another globally threatened grassland bird, the Chestnut-collared Longspur, was 230 individuals in June 2015. Both these totals qualify as globally significant under Birdlife International’s criteria for IBA designation. At the Ellice-Archie Community Pasture, a total of 1.1 Sprague’s Pipit per point count and 1.4 Chestnut-collared Longspur per point count is the highest recorded densities of these species in Manitoba.

Chestnut-collared Longspur_9817_Artuso

The handsome male Chestnut-collared Longspur. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

Another threatened grassland bird, Baird’s Sparrow (provincially Endangered, nationally Special Concern) is also present in high concentrations. 12 calling males were recorded here in 2017. There are also good numbers of Grasshopper Sparrow, plus this is one of the best places in Manitoba to see the stunning Mountain Bluebird.

Baird's Sparrow_Artuso

A singing male Baird’s Sparrow. Copyright Christian Artuso


These grassland birds are under severe pressure. They breed in large, uninterrupted areas of grassland. If the grassland is fragmented (i.e., split up into small portions by roads, fences, infrastructure, scrub, or cropland), then the ability of that grassland to support large concentrations of grassland birds becomes compromised. Fragmenting these habitats may also increase levels of predation, and parasitism by cowbirds. Therefore conserving these large areas of grassland are critical to the survival of these species in Manitoba.

It is not just a place which is special for birds. A report from Manitoba Sustainable Development found at least ten provincially rare or uncommon plants within the IBA in 2002, including Indian Rice Grass and Waxleaf Beardtongue. Of most interest was the presence of the Roundleaf Monkey-Flower, a nationally rare species found in springs and seepy slopes.


Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures sits at a crossroads. There are numerous, dire threats facing these critical grassland complexes, including the following:

  • There are few areas of expansive grassland remaining in Manitoba. Tallgrass Prairie, found in remnant patches in southeastern Manitoba near Tolstoi, became one of two endangered ecosystems listed in the Manitoba Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act in 2015. The conservation status of mixed-grass prairie in Manitoba fares little better. Therefore, the future for these birds and their associated habitats is dependent on conserving this expanse of community pasture, the animals that graze it, and the people that steward the land.
  • The proposed Birtle Transmission Line may be routed through the centre of the Spy Hill-Ellice Community Pasture in Saskatchewan (see Nature Manitoba’s objection here). Fragmentation, effectively slicing the grassland in half, is a large factor in the decline of many species, leading to predation, parasitism and an effective loss of habitat.
  • Mineral extraction, notably for potash is a potential future threat. A potash mine is already located on the boundary of the IBA within the province of Saskatchewan.

    Potash Mine

    The north end of the new IBA. Note the potash mine circled in red

  • It is not just potash. The subsurface of the IBA is within the Bakken Oil Fields. Subsurface rights are key, and currently 50% are in the hands of the Crown. The  subsurface holdings are like a checkerboard, and therefore, even if the Crown retains the subsurface rights, there is huge potential for oil extraction over the remainder of the IBA. The demand for extraction activities makes it very difficult to guarantee the extent and quality of the mixed-grass prairie expanses on these pastures.
  • The cumulative impacts of the above industrialisation will likely lead to large-scale losses of habitat, an increase in predation, and parasitism from generalist species such as the Brown-headed Cowbird. However, we need to consider another factor which has been touched upon, but not recognised above. What about the pasture itself, the Pasture Manager, the grazing animals, and the impact that changes to the wider area would have?
  • Climate Change will have an impact on all ecosystems. We need robust grassland ecosystems. In fact, grasslands provide us with huge benefits, for example intact soils sequester, or store carbon.


We mentioned earlier that these are actively managed pastures, but we have not expanded on what this means for the Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill Community Pastures IBA. We have previously espoused the benefit of active grazing management on the conservation of grassland birds. We work on projects with a wide variety of partners, including the Manitoba Beef Producers, Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation, West Souris River Conservation District, and Turtle Mountain Conservation District. These projects are aimed squarely at retaining a working landscape, with working people, and grazing animals. Grassland birds need grass. They do not breed in fields of soy beans, or corn, or wheat or potatoes. They need the complex structural mosaic that diverse grass species can offer. They also need the complex structure provided by grazing animals. In our modern world, this means cows. Grassland birds in the native prairies therefore need a thriving beef industry to retain and conserve these special habitats.


Ecosystem drivers in action in the new IBA. Cattle are of biological, economical and cultural importance to this area. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

A number of organisations, including Manitoba Sustainable Development, Manitoba Agriculture, Nature Conservancy Canada, Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation and Bird Studies Canada, are coming together to work with AMCP to find ways to protect this special place. An amendment under the Crown Lands Act was made recently to enable the designation of community pastures as protected areas. The next steps of course will be to bring this to fruition, but this is a postive development which will protect the land, while retaining the grazing interest.

The AMCP and Pasture Managers are the critical component to Species At Risk management at the Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill-Ellice Community Pastures IBA. The grazing animals and the systems they use to sensitively manage this land, has created something special. We have a place in Manitoba where a sea of grass provides habitat for hundreds of threatened breeding birds, in densities found nowhere else in our province. Surely for this reason alone, this is a place not only worth being called an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, but also a place worth protecting for generations to come.

If you are interested in visiting this IBA, first understand it is a working landscape. You will need permission from the pasture manager ahead of time, and he will obviously not wish to have lots of people calling. If there is interest, instead, first email the Manitoba IBA Program at, and we will look into if and how that interest can be met. PR41 from St Lazare to McAuley and further south to Kirkella on the TransCanada does cross the middle of Ellice-Archie, so if you are in the area, this is a great way of seeing the IBA without leaving the road.

Bird Studies Canada Blog by Manitoba IBA

Manitoba IBA Program were delighted that Bird Studies Canada (BSC) asked our Coordinator, Tim Poole to write a piece for their latest enews. The piece is about work funded by the Baillie Fund on the west side of Lake Manitoba.

Thank you to the Baillie Fund for its support in 2018, and to all the people that contribute to the fund through the Birdathon.

You can read the blog at

A Quick Run Through of A Long, Hectic, and Really Fun Year!

The year is almost ended, there is little time remaining, and everyone is doing their year in review. Here are some of the highlights from our year at Manitoba IBA:

A New Workparty

We tried something new, and decided to start picking up garbage, mainly discarded angling material from St Ambroise Beach. We collected quite the pile.

Shoreline cleanup-Lake Manitoba-MB-000-LARGE-CROP-SMALL-Lynnea A Parker-1110625

Exhausted, but what a collection. Copyright Lynnea Parker

Back to the bar

We managed two more weed pulls at Sandy Bar in 2018. The first, in August attracted quite the crowd.

Weed Pull-Riverton Sandy Bar IBA-MB-000-SMALL-Lynnea A Parker-1110879

A good crowd for a morning of clearing the bar. Copyright Lynnea Parker

The second pull had a smaller crowd, the wind and cold were horrific, but then again, who cares when you can see Red Knots on the tip!

Red Knot_1938_imm_Artuso

Red Knot juvenile. Copyright Christian Artuso

IBA Blitzes

We had a fair few blitz events this year. A visit to Kinosota-Leifur scored over 50 Red-headed Woodpecker (it was World Cup final day after all), visits to North, West and East Shoal Lakes turned out some great numbers of Western Grebes and other waterbirds (spring blitz report here), a trip to Delta Marsh provided a really high species count, Oak Hammock gave us some lovely views of shorebirds on the front pond, and Oak Lake and Plum Lakes provided good counts of Franklin’s Gull, and grassland birds.

Sabina part of Amanda Tim Jock beach near Twin Lakes

Counting shorebirds on Twin Lake Beach in the Delta Marsh IBA. Copyright Randy Mooi

We also had a few great volunteer trip reports. Glennis provided one on a trip to Oak Lake, with Tundra Swans being very prominent. A few days earlier, Katharine did likewise in the same IBA. Photos can also tell a story, and Garry, John and John had quite the find at Delta Marsh in the fall. Not reported previously, but we also know of a Bonaparte Gull trigger in the same IBA in October. Top stuff!


Thousands of gulls at Delta Marsh IBA. Copyright Garry Budyk

Grassland Birds

We continue to work on grassland bird conservation. This year saw even more landowner surveys delivered in the southwest corner. We plan to publish a report in the New Year, summarising the monitoring results, but in the meantime, Lynnea gave a nice overview of her time out in the prairies. We also delivered a workshop in an indigenous community in this area of the prairies, and three workshops in local schools in Reston, Oak Lake and Pierson.


Chestnut-collared Longspur in southwestern Manitoba. Copyright Lynnea Parker

It’s not grim ‘oop north

As part of our northern outreach, Bonnie Chartier returned to Churchill and had some great success taking local members of the community to see some of the special birds of her home area. She was also, thanks to the generosity of Churchill Wild, able to spend a day at the Seal River IBA. Churchill Wild have been extremely generous in fact to the program in the past two years, and we would like to extend our thanks to Mike, Jeanne and the rest of their team for all their help.

Our Coordinator, Tim Poole also got to spend a night on an island on the Nelson River with members of Fox Lake Cree Nation.

Fox Lake Cree Nation - IBA trip

A near miss! Track of the trip along the Nelson River

Sandy Bay Marshes IBA

We did get out for a cold Grebe Watch in May. We have also given a couple of school IBA workshops in the area.

Sandy Bay IBA Blitz-Langruth-Manitoba-000-LARGE-Lynnea A Parker2-1080645

A cold morning out at Sandy Bay for our intrepid grebe watchers. Copyright Lynnea Parker


It’s been quite the year, with pilot routes of ISS route being delivered at Whitewater and Oak Lake. There are multiple reports on our website, but take a look here for a sample.


Whitewater Lake shorebirds. Copyright Tim Poole

There will be many things missed, but all in all, it has been another exceptionally busy year for the program. Thank you to every volunteer and partner who has helped make 2018 a success, and we look forward to working with you in our special IBAs in 2019!

Manitoba IBA News Bites

We were interested to hear the recent updates from the IUCN Red List and Birdlife International. Two of Manitoba’s most well-known species have been listed as Near Threatened. Under IUCN criteria, Near Threatened is the equivalent of Special Concern in Canada. This means that the declines in populations and range are significant, but not considered so significant that they warrant full endangered status.

The first of these species was no surprise, given the Eastern Whip-poor-will is a species which has been listed as Threatened under the Species At Risk Act in Canada for a few years. As an aerial insectivore, it is perhaps no surprise that it’s status has followed that of numerous other birds of this group. Loss of habitat is also thought to be a major contributory factor.

Eastern Whip-poor-will_Artuso

Eastern Whip-poor-will, cryptic, handsome, yet highly threatened. Copyright Christian Artuso

The second species to be listed was, quite frankly jaw-dropping, and extremely concerning. Common Grackles, birds considered by some, but not all, to be agricultural pests, and therefore a species which has been persecuted, have declined enough to be considered as globally Near Threatened. Just think about it – Common Grackles, of all species now require a global listing. That’s incredible! The figures used to come to this conclusion suggest a 50% decline between 1970 and 2014.

Common Grackle_7328.jpg

Much maligned, but needing some love, the Common Grackle. Copyright Christian Artuso

In better news, one of our favourite IBA birds, the Red-headed Woodpecker has lost its global Near Threatened status, and is now merely Least Concern. This is tremendous news, but we have a caveat. In April 2018, COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, voted to upgrade the species to Endangered in Canada. The mismatch seems odd, but presumably the species is doing much better in USA than Canada.


Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker in the North, West and East Shoal Lakes IBA. Copyright Garry Budyk

In other news, the IBA Canada website has just updated the Manitoba IBA profiles. This includes up-to-date information on the bird populations, some updates to the conservation status, and description of the area.

Of particular note are the following:

You can find Manitoba’s IBAs and read more about them by clicking on this link. If you find any mistakes in the accounts, please let us know, and we will ask our partners at BSC to edit them.

For those in a birdy nerdy mood, the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas, an absolutely stunning success, has now published the full accounts of every species on its website, in English and French. Take a look at the American White Pelican account for some very updated information about the total pelicans counted by Environment and Climate Change Canada at the North, West and East Shoal Lake IBA and the Dog Lake IBA in 2017 (click here).

Finally, we were saddened to hear a few months ago of the passing of Manitoba IBA volunteer, Dave Mayor. Dave, with his wife Pat, were regular attendees at many of our events, and he will be sorely missed. You can read more about Dave’s life here.

Cuba: One of Many Winter Getaway Locations for Birding

Lynnea Parker has been working with the program since January, assisting on a number of projects as our Avian Stewardship Assistant. Recently, she took a well earned vacation in Cuba – and we thought it would be fun for Lynnea to write a short blog on her trip. Here it is in her own words!

I went on a family vacation to Cuba in mid November. While everyone was frying on a beach near Varadero (turning various shades of red to purple) I was often found scampering around the resort looking for birds in the dense vegetation which bordered the property. On the occasion I braved the 30+ degrees Celsius to frolic in the ocean, I was keen to spot potential seabirds. My constant desire to bird watch no doubt annoyed my family to some extent! They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just “relax” 🙂

To prepare for my trip I purchased the Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba by Arturo Kirkconnell and Orlando H Garrido published in 2000. Studying it on the airplane, I identified which species could be found in the Matanzas – Varadero area (located on the north eastern side of Cuba, east of Havana). While I wasn’t going to the “hotspot” of Cuba, which could arguably be Playa Largo near Cuba’s largest National Park, I was still able to put together a list of roughly 100 potential species. The species diversity in Cuba is limited, despite being situated nicely between mainland Florida and Mexico. One reason for islands having reduced biodiversity relates to Island Biogeography Theory, in which limited resources and greatly reduced immigration from other islands, or indeed the mainland, leads to less diversity, but greater appearance of endemics (species which are found nowhere else on Earth). The Galapagos are the most famous example of this phenomena, although being a larger island, Cuba has a greater diversity of species and habitats. The list of potential species included the Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Key West Quail Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Antillean Palm-Swift to name a few. 

During my seven day trip I was able to find 50 species. Unfortunately, the Cuban Trogon and Cuban Tody were not among them. The two best places I visited for birds was Rancho Gaviota west of Matanzas (a huge rural farm set in a nature landscape) and the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve on the eastern end of the Varadero peninsula.

Below is a selection of photos to highlight some aspects of my trip, with a species list at the end of this blog post. My full album of photos can be seen here: Birds of Cuba Album

Rancho Gaviota, Matanzas Cuba

On this particular day my family and I drove to Rancho Gaviota in caravan of Jeeps. The excursion was to visit the rural ranch and have a traditional Cuban lunch which consisted of foods originating from the farm. I think everyone agreed it was fantastic. After lunch we had an hour or so to explore the farm, of which my mom decided to cave in and help me bird. I had been recounting earlier in the day how difficult a time I was having finding new species. While, my mom made the difference and found me some of the best species of the whole trip! Who knew! She remarked that I was trying too hard to find the birds, and therefore missing them all.


Helmeted Guineafowl (Introduced Species -Still a Lifer Though!)


West Indian Woodpecker


Great Lizard Cuckoo (very “Great” indeed)


Cattle Egret


Varahicacos Ecological Reserve

On this day I went off with a companion to check out the ecological reserve close to the resort I was staying at. It was a fantastic experience walking through the reserve. As we walked down the forest path, geckos and lizards would scurry away to the nearest tree. At one point we heard a loud buzzing and found a massive bee’s nest formed in the cracks of a rock fissure (quickly departing after the discovery). While there were few birds to be seen, numerous species could be heard… or was there? I quickly grew tired of the Grey Catbirds and Northern Mockingbirds fooling me at every turn. Despite their trickery, there were a few nice finds.


Key West Quail Dove


Green Heron


Other interesting sightings from my trip:

Left column, top to bottom: Cape May Warbler, Royal Tern, Eurasian-collared Dove, Greater Antillean Grackle

Right Column, top to bottom: Black-throated Blue Warbler, Northern Mockingbird, Sanderling

–>Odd incident, I had a female Cape May Warbler land on my table and eat rice right from my plate while I was still sitting there…. not the kind of species you would expect to come begging for scraps! 

Species Seen in Matanzas and Varadero, Cuba (November 8th to 14th)

Lifers indicated in Bold

Helmeted Guineafowl – Numida meleagris
Rock Pigeon – Columba livia
Scaly-naped Pigeon – Patagioenas squamosa
Eurasian Collared-Dove – Streptopelia decaocto
Common Ground-Dove – Columbina passerina
Key West Quail-Dove – Geotrygon chrysia
White-winged Dove – Zenaida asiatica
Smooth-billed Ani – Crotophaga ani
Great Lizard-Cuckoo – Coccyzus merlini
Antillean Palm-Swift – Tachornis phoenicobia
Cuban Emerald – Chlorostilbon ricordii
Black-necked Stilt – Himantopus mexicanus
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria interpres
Sanderling – Calidris alba
Laughing Gull – Leucophaeus atricilla
Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus
Magnificent Frigatebird – Fregata magnificens
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Brown Pelican – Pelecanus occidentalis
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Roseate Spoonbill – Platalea ajaja
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Cuban Black Hawk – Buteogallus gundlachii
Broad-winged Hawk – Buteo platypterus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
West Indian Woodpecker – Melanerpes superciliaris
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Merlin – Falco columbarius
Cuban Pewee – Contopus caribaeus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Cuban Blackbird – Ptiloxena atroviolacea
Greater Antillean Grackle – Quiscalus niger
Ovenbird – Seiurus aurocapilla
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia
American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla
Cape May Warbler – Setophaga tigrina
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Blackburnian Warbler – Setophaga fusca
Black-throated Blue Warbler – Setophaga caerulescens
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
House Sparrow – Passer domesticus