Riverton Sandy Bar Weed Pull, August 16th


Location: Meet at parking lot at Riverton Sandy Bar IBA – Click here for the location of the Riverton Sandy Bar Parking lot.

Date: Friday August 16th

Time: 8am to 12pm

Please note that there is no outhouse at this parking lot.  Closest bathrooms will be in the town of Riverton.

We are planning our second weed pull in 2019 at the Riverton Sandy Bar IBA.

The purpose of this Weed Pull is to once again clear an area of Sandy Bar to make the habitat more attractive to Piping Plover. This shorebird species last nested at Sandy Bar in 2004. With low lake levels and a large open sandy area we hope that the Piping Plover may once again make an appearance at Sandy Bar.

This is always a popular event. We are planning an earlier weed pull in 2019 following advice from botanists that we should pull the invasive clover before the fall when the plants turn to seed.

It would be great to have you join us on the 16th. Please feel free to forward this to others who may be interested in pulling weeds, meeting others and learning about the migrating birds at Sandy Bar.

Things to bring: Please bring:

  • Weather appropriate clothing and footwear
  • Gardening gloves if you have them
  • Binoculars
  • Water
  • a bagged lunch (coffee and snacks provided at start)
  • sunscreen
  • a hat
  • rain jacket if required

Please email iba@naturemanitoba.ca to express an interest in registering.

Red-headed Woodpecker Blitz at Oak Lake and Plum Lakes IBA

On July 14th 2019, there were two blitzes looking for Red-headed Woodpeckers in IBAs. The first was in the North, West and East Shoal Lakes IBA (see here and here). A group from the Brandon Naturalists, Gillian, Glennis, Louanne and Kathryn, set out in two groups to look for Red-headed Woodpeckers. They looked in an area on the east side of the IBA, focusing on previous sightings. In total they found breeding pairs, all marked on the map below. They also found a single dead bird on the road.

Thank you to everyone who took this initiative to go and find these endangered birds in this IBA!

July 14 2019 Oak Lake RHWO Map.jpg

The Final Results From the Red-headed Woodpecker Blitz at Shoal Lakes

Thank you Kelsey for an excellent report last week on our Red-headed Woodpecker Blitz at the North, West and East Shoal Lakes IBA. This is a short blog, with a few photos from the day, and a review of the results.

You can read Kelsey’s report at this link.


In total we counted over 3,800 birds and 120 species. Over 80% of the birds were counted in the IBA. The most common species was our old friend the Red-winged Blackbird, with 589 counted, of which 430 were in the IBA. Other impressive numbers were Song Sparrow (187) and Western Grebe (162). The Western Grebes, mainly counted from PR415, were carrying young. A windstorm had wiped out some of the colony earlier in the spring, so the sight of young was very much a good news story.

Great Egrets, American Bittern and Great Blue Herons are always good species to find. The Snowy Egret though did not show itself on the day. 51 Great Egrets suggests there must be a sizable colony within the IBA, possibly on the strip of land between West and East Shoal Lake. A surprisingly high number of Sandhill Crane (49) were encountered.

Great egret eating in the rain r.jpg

Great Egret and a mouth full of something slimy. Copyright Randy Mooi

We encountered nine species of raptor, including 22 Red-tailed Hawk. Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers were unsurprisingly fairly numerous. 32 American Kestrel is not a surprise given that this species nests in the same habitat as our target Red-headed Woodpeckers. Below photos of a Red-tailed Hawk and an angry Merlin, both copyright of Randy Mooi.

Shorebirds are always fun, and we found 14 species, with Stilt Sandpiper being the most common. Early records of these northern breeders might suggest that these were failed breeders already taking part in their southbound migration.

WISN on post r

A gorgeous Wilson’ Snip on a fencepost. Copyright Randy Mooi.

Red-headed Woodpeckers

Finally, our target species. the Red-headed Woodpecker is fairly abundant in this IBA. We also surveyed a large area around the IBA. In total we found this species at 14 points in the IBA. At two of these points, three woodpeckers were detected. This suggests a breeding population of around 16 breeding pairs in the IBA. We also found at least 7 breeding pairs around the IBA. In total there were 21 Red-headed Woodpeckers in the IBA and 11 outside the IBA, giving a total of 32 for the day.

July 14 2019 Shoal Lake RHWO Map

How we saw RHWO most of the time

A common view of a Red-headed Woodpecker. Copyright Randy Mooi

Thank You!

Finally, thank you to everyone who took part: Randy, Odette, Garry, Rudolf, Jo, Betsy, Katharine, Kelsey, Pat, Wally, Bonnie, Chris, Jon and Garry.

Species Name Inside IBA Outside IBA TOTAL
Canada Goose 16 2 18
Trumpeter Swan 2 0 2
Wood Duck 2 0 2
Blue-winged Teal 44 6 50
Northern Shoveler 16 0 16
Gadwall 4 7 11
American Wigeon 10 0 10
Mallard 90 14 104
Green-winged Teal 21 0 21
Canvasback 9 0 9
Ring-necked Duck 11 2 13
Bufflehead 11 6 17
Common Goldeneye 5 0 5
duck sp. 131 0 131
Gray Partridge 2 0 2
Sharp-tailed Grouse 1 0 1
Pied-billed Grebe 4 1 5
Red-necked Grebe 4 3 7
Western Grebe 162 0 162
Mourning Dove 21 5 26
Black-billed Cuckoo 1 0 1
Virginia Rail 1 0 1
American Coot 4 0 4
Sandhill Crane 42 7 49
Killdeer 34 6 40
Marbled Godwit 1 0 1
Stilt Sandpiper 30 0 30
Baird’s Sandpiper 8 0 8
Least Sandpiper 1 0 1
Pectoral Sandpiper 3 0 3
Semipalmated Sandpiper 19 0 19
peep sp. 25 0 25
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher 22 0 22
Wilson’s Snipe 21 3 24
Wilson’s Phalarope 3 0 3
Spotted Sandpiper 5 1 6
Greater Yellowlegs 16 0 16
Willet 3 0 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 18 0 18
Franklin’s Gull 5 0 5
Ring-billed Gull 20 10 30
gull sp. 6 0 6
Black Tern 28 0 28
Forster’s Tern 8 0 8
Common Loon 0 2 2
Double-crested Cormorant 9 0 9
American White Pelican 89 11 100
American Bittern 3 0 3
Great Blue Heron 16 0 16
Great Egret 51 0 51
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 0 1
Turkey Vulture 3 1 4
Northern Harrier 6 6 12
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0 1
Cooper’s Hawk 2 1 3
Bald Eagle 6 1 7
Broad-winged Hawk 0 3 3
Red-tailed Hawk 19 3 22
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 9 3 12
Red-headed Woodpecker 21 11 32
Downy Woodpecker 2 0 2
Hairy Woodpecker 5 0 5
Northern Flicker 16 4 20
American Kestrel 21 11 32
Merlin 2 0 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee 2 0 2
Alder Flycatcher 5 0 5
Least Flycatcher 60 31 91
Eastern Phoebe 3 8 11
Great Crested Flycatcher 5 4 9
Eastern Kingbird 38 10 48
Yellow-throated Vireo 2 0 2
Warbling Vireo 42 5 47
Red-eyed Vireo 17 16 33
Blue Jay 9 5 14
Black-billed Magpie 49 1 50
American Crow 29 33 62
Common Raven 14 15 29
Purple Martin 0 10 10
Tree Swallow 79 1 80
Bank Swallow 4 0 4
Barn Swallow 100 42 142
Cliff Swallow 2 0 2
Black-capped Chickadee 3 0 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1 0 1
House Wren 24 8 32
Sedge Wren 19 5 24
Marsh Wren 56 10 66
Eastern Bluebird 6 3 9
Veery 7 1 8
Swainson’s Thrush 1 0 1
American Robin 78 25 103
Gray Catbird 12 15 27
Brown Thrasher 8 1 9
European Starling 56 17 73
Cedar Waxwing 13 9 22
American Goldfinch 26 23 49
Chipping Sparrow 0 4 4
Clay-colored Sparrow 67 37 104
White-throated Sparrow 8 5 13
Vesper Sparrow 4 0 4
LeConte’s Sparrow 2 1 3
Nelson’s Sparrow 3 0 3
Savannah Sparrow 75 9 84
Song Sparrow 135 52 187
Swamp Sparrow 27 2 29
Yellow-headed Blackbird 3 0 3
Bobolink 6 0 6
Western Meadowlark 59 14 73
Orchard Oriole 1 0 1
Baltimore Oriole 12 0 12
Red-winged Blackbird 430 159 589
Brown-headed Cowbird 105 13 118
Brewer’s Blackbird 33 11 44
Common Grackle 33 2 35
Black-and-white Warbler 0 1 1
Common Yellowthroat 72 21 93
American Redstart 2 2 4
Yellow Warbler 36 6 42
Chestnut-sided Warbler 6 0 6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5 1 6
House Sparrow 10 0 10
TOTAL NUMBER BIRDS 3078 765 3843

Shoal Lakes Area IBA – Red-Headed Woodpecker Blitz

We recently spent the morning with volunteers searching for Red-Headed Woodpeckers in the North, East and West Shoal Lakes IBA. Kelsey Bell, our Summer Assistant, recaps the day.

Rain, rain and more rain! That was how the day started out the morning of July 14th, 2019, when volunteers from Winnipeg, Gimli and beyond were getting ready to head to North, West and East Shoal Lakes IBA (Woodlands, MB) in search of Red-Headed Woodpeckers. Despite the turbulent start to the morning, 15 dedicated volunteers still made the trek to their sites in the hopes of detecting these iconic species.

Red-Headed Woodpeckers are listed as a Threatened species in Manitoba as well as across the nation.  The presence of Red-Headed Woodpeckers is strongly associated with grazed woodlots containing standing snags and dead limbs, in areas such as treed cattle yards. The habitat surrounding the lakes within the Shoal Lakes IBA area is mostly made up of mixed aspen woodlots and cattle pasture, making it ideal for Red-Headed Woodpeckers.


Treed cattle pasture being used by Red-Headed Woodpeckers near North, East and West Shoals Lakes IBA (can you spot the RHWO?), copyright Kelsey Bell.


As the thunderstorm and rain subsided for the day, we were treated to a flurry of bird activity. It was hard to drive more than 200m without having to stop to record a whole new list of species. My group took care of the areas to the South and Southwest end of the lakes for the morning survey. Following lunch, we slowly birded our way back to Winnipeg along the East side of the lakes. The diversity in the area was incredible! By the end of the day, we had a total of 80 species. Great Egrets were present in high numbers, there seemed to be a group of them around every corner. A Black-Crowned Night Heron and two American Bitterns were seen flying over, as well as numerous American White Pelican’s. Closer to the shores of the lake we detected Sedge Wrens, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow and of course a ton of Red-Winged Blackbirds. It was a pleasant sight when we spotted large numbers of Western Grebe’s through the scope, many with babies on their backs.


One of the many groups of Great Egrets seen at North, East and West Shoal Lakes IBA, copyright Kelsey Bell.

At the end of it all, we had a total of 5 species of woodpecker for the day, including, of course, Red-Headed Woodpeckers. Every group detected at least one-pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers, for a total of at least 23 individuals, likely a few more.


Red-Headed Woodpecker with food at North, East and West Shoal Lakes IBA, copyright Kelsey Bell.

Despite the delayed start due to poor weather conditions, it was a very successful day! Thank you to everyone who got up at the crack of dawn to brave the weather and make the trip! Each observation is helping contribute to the identification of critical habitat for Red-Headed Woodpeckers in Manitoba.

July 20th Riverton Weed Pull – Final Details

Come join the Manitoba Important Bird Area Program for our fall weed pull at the Riverton Sandy Bar IBA on Saturday July 20th.

We will be pulling weeds to make space for the rare and elusive Piping Plover, a species once common in this IBA, but not seen for a number of years. The encroaching vegetation has significantly reduced habitat for this and other breeding species, and the IBA Program and our caretaker, Joanne Smith, are determined to do something to rectify this situation.

Meeting: We will meet at 7:45 in the parking lot for coffee, juice and maybe a few baked goodies, and at 8:15am we will head up to our weeding spot near the tip of the sandbar. Click here for the location of the Riverton Sandy Bar Parking lot.

Things to bring: Please bring:

– Weather appropriate clothing and footwear

– Gardening gloves if you have them

– Binoculars

– Water

– a bagged lunch

– sunscreen

– a hat

– rain jacket if required

We will stay out until midday.

More info here

Please note that there is no outhouse at this parking lot.  Closest bathrooms will be in the town of Riverton.

If you are interested in coming, please email Lynnea at assistant.manitobaiba@gmail.com

Douglas Marsh Evening Bird Survey

We recently had an evening bird survey at Douglas Marsh, hosted by Nature Conservancy Canada and led by Manitoba IBA Program Coordinator, Tim Poole. Kelsey Bell, our Summer Assistant, gives her take on the proceedings.

On Friday, July 6th, 2019 Nature Conservancy Canada hosted an event out at the Douglas Marsh IBA, asking Manitoba IBA Program to lead a bird survey. Douglas Marsh IBA is a well-known wetland located East of Brandon, MB. The area is famous for hosting significant numbers of the elusive Yellow Rail, one of the nations vulnerably listed bird species. People from all over come to Douglas, MB, in the hopes of hearing this secretive little bird. Friday night was no different, the event attracted  upwards of 30 people. It was great to see so many people attending the event for just a chance to hear this secretive little bird. Visitors from the surrounding Brandon area, Portage La Prairie, Winnipeg and even St-Jean-Baptiste arrived at 8:30pm for a short presentation from Steven Anderson of NCC Manitoba, as well as our very own Tim Poole.


A view over NCC’s Douglas Marsh property. Copyright Tim Poole

Following the presentation, we headed out to the NCC Douglas Marsh property to survey the birds. As soon as we entered the property a Brewer’s Blackbird dropped into the grass with food in her mouth. A short distance later, a pair of Bobolinks were seen, and the female quickly disappeared into the grasses. Great to see such strong nesting indicators from both species, especially the Bobolinks which are listed as a Species at Risk in Canada.


Male Bobolink calling on the property. Copyright Tim Poole

Sedge wrens scolded us most of the evening with their distinct, angry sounding chatter. Wilson’s snipe graced us with their winnowing display near the road, on the edge of the property, and as the sun set lower on the horizon, we began to detect the soft songs of the LeConte’s Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow in the distance; a sure sign there would be Yellow Rail in the area.

As the final glimpse of dusk disappeared beyond the horizon, we headed to the road for our chance at hearing the bird we came for, the Yellow Rail. Although it was a quiet evening and activity felt low, our patience paid off. At approximately 11:15pm we heard the first Yellow Rails of the evening. As we listened to the subtle and distant call of the Yellow Rail, like two stones being clicked together, we were also charmed by the call of the Sora and Virginia Rail, from the opposite side of the road.


A smudgy dusk over the marsh. Copyright Tim Poole

Much like many evening surveys, we relied mostly on aural detection of most of the species recorded. By the end of the evening a total of 23 species were detected in the area, including Western Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, Marsh Wren and of course, Yellow Rail.

Thank you to everyone who made the trip out, it was great to see so many people come out to Douglas Marsh and assist with the survey. It was pleasant evening with fantastic weather. All-in-all, it was a great success!

Here is the evenings eBird checklist – https://ebird.org/canada/view/checklist/S58078655.