The fall update of the Manitoba IBA Program newsletter has just been published. We include updates on the ISS surveys, including links to the third round of monitoring – and what a round it was too! We also include a focus on a day out from a group of volunteers, finding some rather good bird numbers at Delta Marsh IBA, a brief summary of our summer of fun, plus updates on projects with indigenous communities, and grassland birds. Check it out at the link below:
2018 has seen the launch of the International Shorebird Survey (ISS) in Manitoba. Each month from July to September, volunteers from the Manitoba IBA Program, Bird Studies Canada, and NCC, have traveled to Whitewater Lake and Oak Lake and Plum Lakes Important Bird Areas to carry out these surveys. Our third and (in theory), final trips were completed earlier this week, and here is a summary of the results.
On September 17th, Gillian Richards, Christian Artuso, Josiah Van Egmond, and Ed Jenkins, completed the two monitoring transects at Whitewater Lake IBA. The results were, to say the least, quite spectacular.
The total of 38,861 birds, and 99 species was highly impressive, although a mere 20,764 were noted on the ISS surveys themselves, the remaining birds seen while driving from point to point. The most abundant bird was the Red-winged Blackbird, a colossal total of 8,960 being recorded.
Ducks were also abundant, 4,046 Northern Pintail being the highest individual count, but with sizable counts of Green-winged Teal and Mallard as well. A single Greater White-fronted Goose was another standout, along with the usual totals of Snow and Canada Geese exceeding a thousand individuals.
Two Prairie Falcons and two Peregrines were also encountered, which segues nicely to the shorebirds (falcons are notoriously good at flushing shorebirds). The highlight was the Long-billed Dowitcher total of 3,217 individuals. An IBA trigger. This is fascinating. In ISS 1, we had a near trigger for this species, among several thousand dowitchers, but in ISS 2, dowitchers were almost absent. Therefore, large numbers of Long-billed Dowitchers migrated to Whitewater in July, moved on, and were replaced by large numbers in September. Dynamic populations or what! Of the other 21 species of shorebird, they counted a single Red Knot, 407 American Golden Plover, 562 Pectoral Sandpiper (a near trigger), and 542 Greater Yellowlegs.
Here is the total birds for the day, with a column for those recorded on the ISS transect, and a column for the total Whitewater Lake birds.
|ISS Transects||Total for Day|
|Greater White-fronted Goose||0||1|
|American White Pelican||72||90|
|Great Blue Heron||2||9|
On September 18th, Ward Christianson and Linda Boys headed to Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA. The totals here were nothing like Whitewater Lake, with only 7 species of shorebird being encountered. Numbers of American Coot, Green-winged Teal, and other dabbling ducks were beginning to build up impressively as well. There were also good numbers of Franklin’s Gulls, and Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans were noticeably beginning to appear in the area. Long-billed Dowitcher were the most abundant shorebird, followed by Pectoral Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs.
As the totals of non-shorebirds have not been added to eBird yet, we only include the shorebird totals below.
Photos above – another type of wading bird, the wonderful Great Egret. Copyright Linda Boys
Thanks Ward, Linda, Gillian, Josiah, Ed and Christian for all your excellent efforts this week!
For more information on ISS, and previous reports, please see:
Maps, basic instructions and Oak Lake and Whitewater Lake first trip reports
Shorebird Workshop Report – Day 1
Shorebird Workshop Report – Day 2
Whitewater Lake Second Trip Report
Story on NCC website
Story on Manomet website
Tucked in the shadow of Riding Mountain National Park, Proven Lake is the type of place which you might drive past on the road to and from the Park. But take a look, and you might find an interesting place, of Yellow Rails, Le Conte’s Sparrows, Bobolinks, and Alder Flycatchers. Beavers can be spotted here, and even the occasional River Otter. Proven Lake gives you an opportunity to find great birds from spring to fall, and even into winter.
It is fall and maybe not the best time to find some of the treasures named above, but then again, fall is often the time to get up early, visit wetlands, and watch (and count) the extraordinary numbers of waterfowl departing in search of a good meal. Others have commented that Proven Lake shelters hundreds, nee thousands, of waterfowl in fall, and we would encourage anyone staying in that area to get out, and take a look.
Manitoba Sustainable Development have in fact built a trail on Proven Lake. It is little used, and likely to be a bit overgrown, but in mid-summer, apart from the ticks, it provided a great birding walk.
Below, we share maps, and a bit of information about this little known IBA.
Proven Lake is reached by driving north on Highway 10 from Brandon. Turn to the west when Highway 10 meets number 45, and you are almost there! Rather than turn onto the 45 itself, immediately take the gravel road to the north, and head along here. The lake is to the north.
Soon the lake appears. You can see a possible Franklin’s Gull colony on the lake in this area. Of interst to most birders, the habitat here for Yellow Rail looks superb!
Continuing to head west, you come to the trail. This can be accessed on a road heading north, and you will be able to recognise it as it’s well signposted (see below).
Pull into the parking lot, and you face an information sign with an image of the IBA-designate bird, the Black-crowned Night Heron. The original designation pertained to a huge colony of over 300 nests, counted in 1966. In 1995, there were still 200 nests. This represented around 4% of the estimated Canadian population of this species.
Setting out along the trail, you come across a variety of habitats: broadleaf woodland; agricultural land, notably hay meadows; spruce bog and; wetlands including cattail marshes, sedge meadows and open water.
The hay meadows host Bobolinks, Brown Thrasher, and other generalist open ground bird species. These drop into sedge meadows closer to the lake, and this area was notable for its Yellow Rails during the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas. Le Conte’s Sparrow are also found here. The lake has hosted large colonies of Franklin’s Gull in the past, at least 800 nests (a modest 100 individuals were noted in summer 2018). Eared Grebe has bred here in significant numbers as well. Being so close to the National Park, a number of warblers can be spotted in migration, as well as some of the typical aspen parkland breeding species, such as Black-billed Cuckoo and Least Flycatcher. Areas of willow scrub, and dead conifer trees are ideal for flycatchers, Alder’s certainly breed here. The cattail marshes also host American Bitterns, and hide breeding dabbling ducks.
The varied habitat along the trail provides habitat for a host of species. Beaver lodges are noticeable along the channels, and muskrats are present in the cattails. The diverse habitats are also great for invertebrates (although in spring and summer, watch for ticks). Please though be Bear Smart – this is after all in the shadow of Riding Mountain, and this area is very much known for its bears.
Although all the above were taken in June, there is a need to do more monitoring at Proven Lake. Many visiting birders drive straight by it, heading into the boreal treasure trove that is Riding Mountain National Park, and in a way, who could blame them! BUT, Proven Lake is certainly worth a look, and the area here is very much under-birded. You will find species such as Great Gray Owl in the conifer trees along the trail, and it is an ideal spot for the elusive Yellow Rail, so why not stop here next time you come by? In terms of fall priorities, if you are visiting the area, why not take an early morning trip to one of the points on the map below, and count the waterfowl as they leave the shelter of the lake and marshes, and go to feed for the day in the surrounding grain fields? If you are really adventurous, why not try to get a group of people out, and try to count from more than one spot? You might be surprised at the numbers you find!
Garry Budyk, John Weier and John Hays have been committed volunteers, not just for the IBA Program, but also for many of Manitoba’s avian monitoring programs, including the Breeding Bird Atlas, Chimney Swift Initiative and Breeding Bird Surveys. A recent trip by all three to Delta Marsh has given us an excellent opportunity to highlight their amazing contributions to the Manitoba IBA Program, through good old fashioned bird monitoring, and the confirmation of an IBA trigger at one of Manitoba’s most well-known IBAs.
On Saturday September 8th, the three amigos made their way to Delta Marsh to count hawks, part of the annual Nature Manitoba Fall Hawk Watch. During the day of birding, they managed to encounter some high numbers of birds. Most impressively was a total of Franklin’s Gulls of 10,500. An IBA trigger, being more than 1% of the global breeding population of this species! This was almost half the total birds encountered, with there also being 7,120 Ring-billed Gulls. The vast majority of these birds were on open flats at Lynch’s Point in the northwest corner of the IBA. They also found two Red Knot, an excellent species to find in southern Manitoba at this time of year.
Here are the total birds for the day, within the IBA of course (the guys also have other lists outside the IBA).
|American White Pelican||80|
|Great Blue Heron||4|
2018 was an eventful summer for the Manitoba IBA program, which had a full itinerary of events which included numerous bird-blitz at different IBAs, workshops, community outreach events, habitat restoration, and attendance at summer fairs. This summer’s success was driven by a huge turnout of volunteers who dedicated their time (and gas money!) to helping monitor bird diversity and abundance across the province. It is obvious that the Manitoba IBA program is growing, and we wish to thank our generous financial donors and everyone who participated in events this summer. We are already looking forward to spring of 2019!
To really appreciate how much was accomplished this year, we have put together a detailed timeline of our events below:
May 5th – We headed out to Sandy Bay IBA near Langruth to engage the local community in bird watching and monitoring. We were expecting to find high counts of Western Grebes along the shoreline, but a late spring and ice cover foiled our expectations.
May 6th – Kicking off events early, the IBA program brought a multitude of volunteers out to North, West, and East Shoal Lakes IBA to survey for Western Grebes and other waterbirds. It was a brisk morning with ice still on the lake, but that didn’t stop anyone from counting a total of 766 Western Grebes!
May 12th – We joined Oak Hammock Marsh in celebrating International Migratory Bird Day. Morning events took place at Oak Hammock Marsh with presentations by Christian Artuso and bird walk hosted by Tim, Lynnea, Paula, and Christian.
May 23rd and 24th – Nature Conservancy of Canada, Manomet Shorebird Recovery Program, and the Manitoba IBA program organized and hosted an International Shorebird workshop in southwestern Manitoba. It was a fantastic workshop which laid down the groundwork for initiating ISS surveys here in Manitoba. Never heard of ISS before? Read about it here for more details.
June – IBA intern Lynnea Parker accounts her adventures in the southwest surveying for grassland birds and species at risk. These survey efforts were apart of the SARPAL program, which is now in its second year.
June 3rd – The breeding season kicked off with an Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA Blitz. The day was full of great sighting and high counts of birds. Some noteworthy mentions include Cattle Egret, Upland Sandpiper, Red-headed Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike, Mountain Bluebird, Sprague’s Pipit, and Chestnut-collared Longspur. Read all about this successful start to the summer.
June 9th – The program joined forces with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to look for species at risk on their properties near East Shoal Lake.
July 11th – Manitoba’s brand new Clear Your Gear program was supported by the Manitoba IBA program. We hosted a shoreline cleanup event at St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park. Volunteers and event coordinators were equally surprised by the sheer quantity of commercial gill nets which were removed from 3km of shoreline (blog post Read more here
July 15th – The IBA program hosted its first ever species-specific blitz, which was for Red-headed Woodpeckers. This event took place at the Kinosota-Leifur IBA which great success. 51 individuals were found, and 34 breeding pairs were confirmed.
July 26th – Christian, Rebekah, Josh, and Ward conducted the first ever official International Shorebird Survey (ISS) in Manitoba at Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA! The survey revealed how important water levels are for shorebird habitat. Only 12 species of shorebirds were detected, with Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and Wilson’s Phalarope the most abundant.
July 29th – Christian, Colin, Gillian, and Tim conducted the first ever Whitewater Lake ISS survey. 21 species of shorebirds were detected. Special highlights included 1,440 Long-billed Dowitcher and 418 American Avocet. Continue reading about this great kickoff to the fall ISS season.
August 12th – The Delta Marsh IBA Blitz took place bright and early to beat the heat with a daytime high of 36 degrees Celsius. 5 groups covered the entire IBA area finding a total of 156 species and 19 shorebird species. Although a whopping 19,564 individual birds were counted, shorebirds were few and far between. The Least Sandpiper with 388 individuals was the most abundant shorebird species. Checkout what happened at Delta Marsh.
August 15th and 16th – Tim Poole flew to Gillam in northern Manitoba to introduce the IBA program to Fox Lake Cree Nation. The IBA program is excited to have the opportunity to work with the Fox Lake Cree Nation in establishing a monitoring program for the remote Nelson River Estuary and Marshy Point IBA.
August 16th – The annual Weed Pull for Plovers event took place with Joanne Smith (Sandy Bar IBA Caretaker). 24 volunteers turned out for this event and significant progress was made restoring habitat for shorebirds and waterbirds.
August 22nd – Tim and Lynnea conducted the 2nd fall season International Shorebird Survey (ISS) at Whitewater Lake. While most of the areas surveyed had low counts of shorebird, one particular spot along the route was a sight to behold – 6,000 to 8,000 thousand shorebirds of different species were found flocking together!
August 26th – 20 volunteers comprising 6 groups surveyed North, West and East Shoal Lakes IBA and surrounding areas. Although bird activity was in its seasonal decline, this IBA did not disappoint with 152 species and 7,868 individuals! 25 Red-headed Woodpeckers were found and 15 different species of shorebirds.
With so many events already concluded, let’s not forget about these upcoming opportunities to engage with bird conservation before the 2018 season ends.
September 21 – Riverton Sandy Bar Weed Pull Event (ROUND 2)
Please join the IBA program one more time this year to improve shorebird and waterbird habitat at the Sandy Bar IBA. Drinks and snacks will be provided at 8:30am and the group will depart for the sand bar with weed-whacking supplies at 9:00am. Expected end time is 12:30pm.
October 14 –Swans and Cranes… Oh My!
Oh my indeed! Come join us in southwestern Manitoba to help find, count, and record the anticipated arrival of hundreds (if not thousands!) of swans, geese, ducks, and cranes. The large gatherings of these congregational birds is a sight to behold every fall in Manitoba. We will need all the help we can get.
If you don’t believe us, check out this blog post: Blast from the past: Historical observations and fall birding in southern Manitoba (check it out here).