Manitoba’s First Shorebird Scrape

Exciting news came out of Oak Hammock Marsh last week with the construction finishing on Manitoba’s first shorebird scrape at the Wildlife Management Area.

The new shorebird scrape as seen from PR 220. Copyright C. Heald.

What is a scrape you might ask? It is a conservation tool that benefits many species, including shorebirds. A shallow depression is dug into the ground, and this depression is seasonally fed with water. Generally the scrape is wetter in the spring, due to spring rains and drier in the autumn. The shallow depression leads to shallow water, providing good habitat for aquatic invertebrates, and the various animals that feed on them (such as ducks, geese, shorebirds, and amphibians).

Canada Geese enjoying the shorebird scrape. Copyright C. Heald.

Scrapes are a common conservation tool in Europe, but less commonly employed in North America. Luckily, so far we seem to have a successful scrape, with a Lesser Yellowlegs spotted in a photo only two hours of the scrape being completed.

Can you spot the first shorebird visitor to to shorebird scrape? Copyright C. Heald.

If you are interested in visiting the shorebird scrape, you can find it on the southern edge of the pond closest to Provincial Road 220. It is visible from PR 220 or from Duck Pond Trail (with a viewing blind). Manitoba IBA will be at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre’s Migration Festival on September 26th with spotting scopes, if you are interested in seeing what is out on the scrape. Manitoba IBA would also love to feature photos and bird lists of shorebirds (and other birds!) using the scrape, you can send them to iba@naturemanitoba.ca. There is also a new hotspot set up for the Oak Hammock Marsh – Shorebird Scrape on eBird to help us keep track of species using the scrape (versus the marsh as a whole).

Location of the shorebird scrape at Oak Hammock Marsh WMA

The Shorebird Scrape would not have been possible without funding and support from The Conservation Trust, Nature Manitoba, Province of Manitoba and Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre.

North, East and West Shoal Lakes Blitz

On August 8th we had our first IBA Blitz of the year (much later than normal of course, but better late than never!). Volunteers went out in the North, East and West Shoal Lakes IBA in search of Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Red-headed Woodpecker. Copyright R. Mooi

The day started off with perfect weather for our 15-member blitz crew to survey for birds! We surveyed a large area of the IBA, as well as outside the IBA northeast of Inwood.

IBA group survey areas. Groups 1-5 are in the Shoal Lakes IBA, while Group 6 surveyed outside the IBA where Red-headed Woodpeckers have been spotted in the past. Copyright Manitoba IBA.

The IBA appeared much drier than in previous years and many marsh areas looked a lot more like dried ground with no water in sight! However, the low water level was a boon for groups that surveyed the edges of the Shoal Lakes, as a variety of shorebirds were using the shallow water and mud flats left over. No individual shorebird had a huge number of individuals (although there were 107 Greater Yellowlegs and 191 Lesser Yellowlegs) but we had a good number of different shorebird species at 13.

American Avocet. Copyright K. Schulz.
Mixed flock of shorebirds. Copyright R. Mooi.

A large number of Great Egrets were also spotted (55 individuals). Some folks were lucky enough to even see a Black-crowned Night-heron, which has overwise proven illusive this summer. Amanda and Alyssa surveyed an area outside the IBA (prior years with good Red-headed Woodpecker habitat) and ended up with a fairly large gathering of Franklin’s Gulls (744 individuals).

A Great Egret impersonating a Red-headed Woodpecker. Copyright K. Schulz.

Now to our focal species – Red-headed Woodpeckers. The species was abundant in this IBA, although surveying success seemed different than surveys in past years that occurred earlier in the year. Some groups found that without playback detection of Red-headed Woodpeckers was unlikely. Birds did, however, seem to respond to playback and call back or appear out from behind trees. Other groups did not experience the same thing and either saw birds without playback or found that the birds did not react to playback at all! The variation in experiences between groups was interesting.

 We found Red-headed Woodpeckers at points all across the IBA, as well as an area to the northeast of the IBA surveyed due to high numbers seen there last year. Each group was lucky enough to detect at least one Red-headed Woodpecker, and we had a day total count of 20 individuals.

Red-headed Woodpecker seen by Amanda and Alyssa in a much leafy-er habitat than expected. Copyright A. Shave

Despite the delayed time of year, we had a successful day in the Shoal Lakes IBA. Thank you again to all the volunteers that came out: Jo, Bonnie, Peter, Doreen, Katherine and John, Matt, Garry, Rudolf, John, Randy and Odette who joined Amanda, Alyssa and Nate on this blitz. Your dedication to birding and conservation is always appreciated and helps our feathered friends within Manitoba!

Our volunteers enjoying a socially distanced meet up and snacks. Copyright R. Mooi

Our full bird count is below.

Species NameInside IBAOutside IBATOTAL
Canada Goose90 090
Trumpeter Swan101
Wood Duck1 01
Blue-winged Teal235 0235
Northern Shoveler 12214
Mallard347 0347
Green-winged Teal16117
Ring-necked Duck1 01
Common Goldeneye202
Gadwell101
Northern Pintail900
Redhead23023
Duck spp30030
Hooded Merganser3 03
Sharp-tailed Grouse3 03
Pied-billed Grebe3 03
Western Grebe30 030
American Coot202
Belted Kingfisher101
Rock Pigeon426
Mourning Dove35136
Ruby-throated Hummingbird5 05
American Coot22
Sandhill Crane672188
American Avocet606
Baird’s Sandpiper303
Killdeer46 046
Marbled Godwit5 05
Pectoral Sandpiper9 09
Wilson’s Snipe14 014
Spotted Sandpiper1 01
Solitary Sandpiper17522
Least Sandpiper707
Stilt Sandpiper909
Greater Yellowlegs1073110
Lesser Yellowlegs191 0191
Tringa spp10010
Peep spp20020
Wilson’s Phalarope808
Bonaparte’s Gull101
Franklin’s Gull173744917
Herring Gull202
Ring-billed Gull12246168
Gull spp15015
Black Tern17 017
Common Tern14014
Forester’s Tern101
Double-crested Cormorant88
American White Pelican957102
American Bittern101
Black-crowned Night Heron101
Great Blue Heron7 07
Great Egret55 055
Turkey Vulture314
Northern Harrier4 04
Sharp-shinned Hawk1 01
Cooper’s Hawk1 01
Bald Eagle7 07
Red-tailed Hawk14317
Broad-winged Hawk202
Peregrine Falcon101
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker11 011
Red-headed Woodpecker13720
Downy Woodpecker7 07
Hairy Woodpecker101
Pileated Woodpecker6 06
Northern Flicker729
American Kestrel27229
Merlin224
Eastern Wood-Pewee11213
Eastern Phoebe77
Alder Flycatcher404
Least Flycatcher19625
Great Crested Flycatcher8 08
Eastern Kingbird9819117
Blue-headed Vireo202
Warbling Vireo15 015
Red-eyed Vireo27330
Blue Jay14115
Black-billed Magpie24125
American Crow401050
Common Raven13316
Black-capped Chickadee10111
Horned Lark 123
Purple Martin 123
Cliff Swallow303
Tree Swallow52 052
Bank Swallow101
Barn Swallow79685
Northern Rough-winged Swallow101
House Wren4 04
Sedge Wren20222
Marsh Wren505
European Starling73 073
Gray Catbird16117
Brown Thrasher3 03
Eastern Bluebird2020
Veery11
American Robin50858
Cedar Waxwing83891
American Goldfinch9914113
Chipping Sparrow14
Clay-colored Sparrow68169
Vesper Sparrow1 01
Savannah Sparrow31 031
Song Sparrow39544
Swamp Sparrow303
Yellow-headed Blackbird88
Western Meadowlark60 060
Baltimore Oriole15116
Red-winged Blackbird3129321
Brown-headed Cowbird16 016
Brewer’s Blackbird38 038
Common Grackle132132
Black-and-white Warbler 112
Chestnut-sided Warbler101
Tennessee Warbler1 01
Nashville Warbler1 01
Common Yellowthroat6 06
Yellow Warbler21223
Rose-breasted Grosbeak6 06
White-breasted Nuthatch404
House Sparrow18018
TOTAL NUMBER BIRDS4547
TOTAL NUMBER SPECIES122

September Events at Manitoba IBA

Shorebird Webinar – Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) with Manitoba IBA: Hear about migration stories of shorebirds in Manitoba track with MOTUS Wildlife Tracking Technology, discover about citizen science opportunities with the International Shorebird Survey, and learn tips and techniques for counting shorebirds. September 22, more details to come.

Flock of short-billed dowitchers. Copyright C. Artuso

Migration Days: Manitoba IBA will also be at Migration Day at Oak Hammock Marsh on September 26th starting at 8:00am. Don’t miss a variety of IBA events including:

8:00am Birding walk – Registration Required

11:00 am Birding walk – Registration Required

Spotting Scopes set up on the NEW shorebird scrape – No registration required.

Newly constructed Shorebird Scrape at Oak Hammock Marsh. Copyright P. Grieef.

Upcoming Activities

As we head into migration season, Manitoba IBA has a variety of activities planned and in the works:

We will be venturing out to Oak Lake/ Plum Lakes on Saturday, August 15th at 8:30 am to once again search the IBA for Redheaded Woodpeckers before they head off on migration. I am sure we will also be seeing many other species – as experienced by our recent Shoal Lakes Bird Blitz (stay tuned for our blitz summary).

Oak Lakes RHWO Blitz Poster

We will also be holding a blitz focused on shorebirds and waterbirds at Whitewater Lake IBA on Saturday, August 29th at 9:00 am. Whitewater Lake is a premier spot to see migrating shorebirds in Manitoba.

WWL Blitz Poster

Last but not least, we will be holding another webinar on Wednesday, August 26th at 1:00 pm on identifying our “fall warblers” found in Manitoba. Hopefully this webinar “falls” right in the middle of warbler migration this year so that you can test out your new-found skills. If you have any suggestions for future Manitoba IBA webinars we’d love to hear from you at iba@naturemanitoba.ca!

IBA Manitoba Fall Warblers Poster

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.

Spence NW 18 photo 2

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.

2016_CONI

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!