Upcoming Red-headed Woodpecker Blitz – Shoal Lakes IBA

Manitoba IBA’s second event of the season in eastern Manitoba is coming up! Join us on July 9th as we blitz the North, East and West Shoal Lakes IBA for the Red-headed Woodpecker. Last year we were able to find 19 Red-Headed Woodpeckers (with smaller surveys due to COVID-19) – enough individuals to reach the IBA threshold for this species, indicating that it is key habitat!

The blitz start time is 7:00 am, and at noon we will meet for snacks and refreshments in the town of Inwood. All birding skill levels are welcome and carpooling will be arranged to the best of our ability.

Woodridge Bird Walk

On Saturday, June 11th, Amanda and I ventured down to Woodridge Manitoba, where members of the community and surrounding area joined us for an intro birding session and community bird walk.

We arrived in the community in the early morning and set up in the local community center. Our presentation and bird walk was the first of five workshops in the community as part of their “Birds of a Feather Flock together” workshops series focusing on birding and the outdoors as a way to improve mental health and bring the community together. We handed out some identification resources as everyone got settled. And of course, what would a presentation be without some technical difficulties! After that was sorted, I walked the group through various bird identification methods and the various bird groups found in Manitoba. I was pleased that the group had plenty of really great questions afterwards.

Once our presentation portion was complete, we handed out binoculars, zipped up into our mosquito suits and left the community center to begin our bird walk. As Amanda demonstrated how to successfully use binoculars, we spotted our first birds of the walk – a Tree Swallow and male House Sparrow. Our path took us through a part of the community down to a little wooded path. The group was able to test out their new knowledge when we heard a Red-eyed Vireo sing its “Where are you? Here I am.” call. Much to our frustration the Vireo was well hidden amongst the fresh leaves.

A Red-eyed Vireo – unfortunately we never ended up seeing this guy on our walk – we certainly heard its song though! Photo by Adam Zahm, allaboutbirds.org.

Other birds we encountered on the way were a Barn Swallow, Chipping Sparrow, an American Robin and an American Crow. We also heard the “squeaky wheel” sound of a Black and White Warbler. Our group members informed us along the way that they had several species of Orioles in the community this year, and in particularly large numbers. There is also usually a local group of Wild Turkeys that we didn’t end up seeing on our day out. Our day wrapped up around noon and we headed back to the community center.

A Baltimore Oriole. While we didn’t see any on our walk, earlier in the spring there were many coming to bird feeders in the Woodridge area. Photo by Fernando Bergalin Sequeria, allaboutbirds.org.

A big thank you to Corey, who reached out to us to make the event happen and to everyone who came out and for your interest in local birds!

-Ariel Desrochers

New Job Opportunity – Manitoba IBA and Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative Coordinator

The Manitoba Important Bird Area (IBA) Caretaker Program and Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative (MCSI) are seeking a full-time coordinator to run these programs in Manitoba, with the assistance of two volunteer steering committees. The successful candidate will work 3 days/week on the IBA Program and 2 days/week on the MCSI.  The successful candidate will be responsible for delivering multiple grants for the Manitoba Important Bird Areas Program and the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative.

Job Description

The position is currently funded fully up to March 31st 2023, and part-time from April 1st 2023, with actual days worked being flexible depending on the candidate’s availability and work requirements. The exact start date is negotiable, preferably by August 2nd 2022. It is envisioned that the successful candidate will work from Nature Manitoba’s Winnipeg office; however, other locations may be acceptable to suit the successful candidate’s preference. Travel to various Manitoba locations will be involved. The position will require field work and the successful candidate may need to stay overnight in rural Manitoba.

We seek a dynamic individual who can engage a variety of audiences and rally support for the projects from different sectors. The successful candidate will:

  • Work independently, but with input from both committees, to continue the development and promotion of province-wide programs
  • Write funding proposals and seek opportunities to expand the programs
  • Be skilled at giving presentations, recruiting volunteers, and organizing events
  • Organize volunteer events, including habitat stewardship work parties and volunteer monitoring blitzes
  • Engage with diverse community groups to deliver stewardship and monitoring, including beef producers, landowners, First Nations, birders and building owners
  • Deliver monitoring for various groups of birds including shorebirds, grassland birds and aerial insectivores
  • Train and coordinate volunteers in avian monitoring techniques
  • Be able to use the IBA monitoring protocol (eBird) and technical tools and to explain their usage to volunteers
  • Be able to manage a database of Chimney Swift records and coordinate contributions to national monitoring programs
  • Create and manage partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organisations
  • Maintain the website http://importantbirdareasmb.ca, social media accounts and provide content to the volunteer webmaster for the MCSI website
  • Manage two separate budgets, subcontracts and summer staff
  • Represent the programs at meetings or conferences as required
  • Coordinate the two programs and be accountable to two Steering Committees as required

Compensation: $22.50/hr starting salary with the possibility of increased hours and pay dependent on performance review.

Qualifications:

  • Demonstrated oral and written communications skills
  • Demonstrated knowledge of natural history and conservation (although a degree in biological or ecological sciences is not required, this program will benefit from someone who can speak with confidence and authority on the conservation issues pertinent to IBAs and Chimney Swifts)
  • Familiarity with Manitoba’s avifauna, experience in conservation programming, experience in working with community organizations and/or NGOs, fundraising experience, and bilingualism, are strong assets
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate and negotiate with different groups of people to deliver and negotiate stewardship for Species at Risk
  • Demonstrated avian monitoring skills
  • Basic computer familiarity, especially with Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook). Familiarity with Adobe or other photo-editing software an asset
  • Valid driver’s license (own vehicle preferred or ability to rent a vehicle)

Apply To:

Please send (electronically in .doc or.pdf format) a résumé and cover letter with the names of three referees to Christian Artuso at chartuso@gmail.com.

Deadline: July 3rd, 2022, 11:00 PM Central time.

Click here to download a .pdf of the job posting

Oak Hammock Marsh Shorebird Walk

On Saturday May 28th, Manitoba IBA led two shorebird walks at Oak Hammock Marsh. Starting at 8 am and then 10 am, we wandered the soaked marsh paths and while shorebirds were mostly small in numbers, we did have a few surprises from the day!

Monitoring at the Shorebird Scrape. Photo by Ariel Desrochers.

We met our first group just before 8am in the parking lot of the Harry J. Enns Interpretive Centre. Unfortunately, our coordinator Amanda, who would normally lead a walk such as this, was stuck at home recovering from Covid-19. However, we were lucky enough to have Bonnie Chartier with us! She is a experienced birder, IBA Steering Committe member, International Shorebird Survey volunteer and tour guide and was so was beyond perfect for the job. I (Ariel) was also there to assist. Before we set off, we spoke to Paula, Oak Hammock Marsh’s Resident Naturalist, who informed us of the high water levels, which was not surprising in the least.

Our first group included experienced birders and a young birder and her mom, their first birding outing! Our first stop was the Shorebird Scrape where we saw various duck species, including Northern Shoveler and Redheads, and were surrounded by swooping swallows. The majority were Tree Swallows but also spotted were Bank, Cliff, Barn and Northern Rough Winged Swallows. This is where we spotted two shorebird species, a Marbled Godwit and a Spotted Sandpiper. After monitoring that area for a while we set off towards Willow trail. Along the way we listened for sparrows and warblers. We were drawn by the calls of a few Sora, but never saw them. We only had a hour and a half for our walk so eventually we turned around and headed back. Just before the parking lot, a handful of the group noticed a number of birds flying in a “V” formation above, followed by many separate groups of the same bird. It was determined that they were Black-bellied Plover!

Our second group started out at 10 am and headed down Blackbird trail. By this time the wind had picked up significantly but we were still able to hear quite a bit of bird noise. Bonnie pointed out the call of a Least Bittern that was across the Marsh, and several Sora were also heard. A group of trees contained swallows, a Magnolia Warbler, a Wilson’s Warbler and a Common Yellowthroat, which was a first for me! We took our time on Blackbird trail and rounded out the walk by heading back on the boardwalk.

Northern Shoveler. Photo by Ariel Desrochers.
Killdeer. Photo by Ariel Desrochers.

Overall, due to the water high water levels, few shorebirds were spotted but there was still plenty to be seen. A big thanks to everyone who came out and to Bonnie Chartier for leading the day! The full checklist of species for each walk can be found below:

Counts for 8:00 am walk:

Species Count
Canada Goose13
Trumpeter Swan2
Blue Winged Teal 8
Northern Shoveler9
Mallard 3
Canvasback 1
Redhead 8
Lesser Scaup 2
Sora4
Black Bellied Plover300
Killdeer4
Marbled Godwit1
Spotted Sandpiper1
Black Tern6
Least Bittern1
Northern Harrier1
Bald Eagle 1
American Kestrel1
Common Raven 2
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow3
Purple Martin 6
Tree Swallow40
Bank Swallow3
Barn Swallow2
Cliff Swallow3
Sedge wren 2
Gray Catbird2
Clay-colored Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow2
Song Sparrow2
Swamp Sparrow4
Yellow Headed Blackbird12
Western Meadowlark1
Red Winged Blackbird8
Brown-headed Cowbird1
Common Grackle 3
Common Yellowthroat1
Yellow Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1

Counts for 10:00 am walk:

SpeciesCount
Canada Goose3
Blue-winged Teal 1
Northern Shoveler 1
Redhead2
Lesser Scaup2
Sora4
American Coot2
Black Tern2
American White Pelican 1
Least Bittern1
Great Blue Heron3
Eastern Kingbird1
Common Raven 1
Purple Martin 15
Tree Swallow6
Bank Swallow1
Barn Swallow1
Marsh Wren 2
Clay-colored Sparrow1
Song Sparrow1
Swamp Sparrow1
Yellow-headed Blackbird2
Red-winged Blackbird Present
Common Grackle 10
Common Yellowthroat 5
American Redstart 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 3
Wilson’s Warbler 1

-Ariel Desrochers

Welcome Ariel!

Hi Everyone! I am pleased to announce that I am back for a second summer with the Manitoba IBA program, filling in the roll of Summer Assistant once again.

Since my departure at the end of August 2021, I have gone on to finish my bachelors degree in Environmental Studies and am excited to kick off my working life doing what I love: looking at Manitoba’s beautiful birds! This year I will continue focusing on species at risk, including Red Headed Woodpeckers and Eastern Whip-poor-wills, as well as working with our Chimney Swift initiative. Some of you may have met me last year during one of our events but if not, I look forward to meeting you this summer!

New Events for Manitoba IBA Program

Despite a cool and rainy spring, the Manitoba IBA program is looking ahead to our first events of the season! To sign up for events email iba@naturemanitoba.ca unless otherwise noted.


Oak Hammock Marsh Shorebird Walk – Saturday, May 28th at 8:00 am or 10:00 am

We will be at Oak Hammock Marsh for their World Migratory Bird Day celebration on Saturday, May 28th for shorebird walks departing the Interpretive Centre parking lot at 8:00 am and 10:00 am. Spotting scopes will be available to use and this event is suitable for all skill levels. There is a $10/person fee for the walk. This event is run by the Harry J. Enns Wetland Interpretive Centre. To sign up contact the Interpretive Centre or sign up online at: https://oakhammockmarsh.myshopify.com/products/guided-shorebird-survey-walk.


Southwestern Manitoba Shorebird Identification Workshop – Sunday, May 29th at 8:30 am

Join us on a visit in southwestern Manitoba for a practical look at how to identify shorebirds in their breeding plumage. Our location in southwestern Manitoba is to be announced depending on where shorebirds are gathering and accessible. Possible locations include Elton Road Wetland, Griswold Marsh or Oak Lake/ Plum Lake IBA. Spotting scopes will be available to use. Carpooling from Winnipeg or Brandon is available.  This is a free event suitable for all skill levels.


Whitewater Lake Bird Blitz – Saturday, June 4th at 8:30 am

Support bird conservation in Manitoba by participating in our citizen science monitoring of Whitewater Lake. Whitewater Lake is a premier destination in Manitoba for shorebirds, and a wide variety of other birds. Carpooling from Winnipeg or Brandon is available. This is a free event suitable for all skill levels.

Update on Avian Influenza in Manitoba

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has now been detected in Manitoba in two cases, a Bald Eagle near Dauphin and Snow Geese near Waskada (see https://cfia-ncr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/89c779e98cdf492c899df23e1c38fdbc). The province has released more information for anyone interested – https://news.gov.mb.ca/news/index.html?item=54262&posted=2022-04-20

In the past 24 hours there has been a lot of debate on social media relating to bird feeders. This is obviously quite a sensitive issue for people, depending on their comfort level. Currently the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Wildlife Service are still advising that bird feeders are safe because there are very few cases of HPAI in songbirds. However, if you have a feeder or a bird bath they are recommending regular cleaning. The exact wording is as follows:

“To minimize the risk of transmission of HPAI, do not handle or feed any wild bird by hand. Feeding encourages wild birds to congregate around food sources and can increase the probability of transmission among wild birds, both within and among species.

The use of bird feeders is still safe but they should be removed from areas that are open to poultry and other domestic animals. If you care for poultry, prevent contact between wild birds and poultry by removing exterior/outdoor sources of food, water and shelter that attract wild birds.

Backyard bird feeders and baths should be cleaned regularly using a weak solution of domestic bleach (10% sodium hypochlorite). Ensure they are well rinsed and dried before re-use.”

It goes without saying that this advice might change. However, HPAI has been present in Europe for much longer and the impact on songbirds there has been minimal (see list of infected species from the UK – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1069649/ai-findings-2022-wk15.csv/preview).

More information on HPAI can be found at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/migratory-game-bird-hunting/avian-influenza-wild-birds.html

-Amanda

Birds in a Blizzard

Prior to this winter storm, migration in Manitoba was preceding as normal with people reporting birds like Canada Geese, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Robins, Trumpeter Swans, Herring Gulls and more. While these birds are likely not enjoying the spring snowfall (similar to us humans!), they are adapted to withstand the occasional bout of cold and snowy weather. Similar to humans and other mammals, bird need to keep a constant body temperature, regardless of the weather.

All of the birds I listed above are early spring migrants to Manitoba. With our unpredictable spring weather, this means that they have evolved to be successful under a variety of spring conditions – from warm weather to cold weather, rain to snow!

Feathers

Feathers are a bird’s multi-tool – they serve many different purposed! A bird’s plumage can help attract a mate, or provide camouflage. However, one of the most important roles of feathers is to help keep a bird warm and dry. During periods of cold weather, a bird will fluff up their feathers in the cold to trap as much of their body heat as possible. In fact, they can seem up to 2-3 times their body size all fluffed up! This is similar to how a down duvet traps your body heat. The average bird’s body temperature is approximately 40.6oC (105oF) and they can maintain that in cold weather.  Additionally, the oil that birds apply to their feathers while preening works to help repel moisture.

Juncos are a more ball-shaped bird in general but you can see the difference in the body shape of a cold junco! Photos from eBird.org (left) and audubon.org (right).

Shivering

Birds can shiver to help maintain their body temperature in cold weather. When birds shiver in cold weather they activate opposing muscle groups that contract against each other. This allows the birds to better retain body heat.

Feet

Bird feet in general can withstand lower temperature as they are mostly tendon and bone with little nerve or muscle tissue, so there is not much to freeze. However, the feet of ducks, geese, and gulls have evolved further to withstand cold water and ice. This is done through an adaptation called counter-current heat exchange in their legs and feet. Warm, oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart into the feet through arteries, which are close by the veins in the legs and feet that are returning colder, deoxygenated blood from the feet back to the body. As the arteries and veins are close together heat is transfer from the warmer arteries to the colder veins. Counter-current heat exchange allows the core body temperature to stay warmer, rather than losing heat through the cold legs and feet. Other mammals that live in cold climates, such as squirrels also use counter-current heat exchange.

Counter-current heat exchange in a gull leg and foot. Image from Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Adapted from Randall et al. 2002.

Behavioral Adaptations

There are a number of different ways that birds can alter their behavior to stay warm during spring cold spells. As humans, we can often feel the warmth of the sun in the spring, even if the air or wind is a bit chilly. Birds (especially dark coloured birds) can warm up on sunny days, by doing the aptly named “sunning” whereby they turn their backs to the sun, exposing the largest area of the body to the sun’s heat.

Birds can also flock together to help keep each other warm with combined body heat. In addition to the flocking itself birds may also gather in areas sheltered from the wind or cold, such as in sheltered shrubs or cavities in trees.

We talked about feathers above, but what about areas on a bird’s body that do not have any feathers? The feet, legs and bills/ beaks of most birds are not feathered. These areas of the body are kept warm by tucking them under areas that do have feathers. Birds may stand on one foot, with the other tucked up under the body feathers, or sitting on their feet which allows them to cover both legs and feet with their feathers. Similarly, they may tuck their beak/bills into their shoulder feathers to breathe air warmed by their body.

Opportunistic feeding

It can take a lot of energy to keep warm, so food sources during early spring cold snaps can be especially important. In urban areas, as well as rural farm yards, birds can often find supplemental food through bird feeders. High energy foods that are safe for a variety of birds include black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

The next few days might just be the perfect time to observe how birds adapt to the snowy conditions from the comfort and safety of home!

-Amanda

Guidance for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

You may have heard that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been detected in various US States and Canadian provinces in the past few months. The latest report confirms a first case in Saskatchewan but no suspected cases in Manitoba yet (see http://www.cwhc-rcsf.ca/avian_influenza_testing_results.php).

The Avian Influenza Virus is a contagious viral infection that can affect domestic and wild birds. Many strains occur naturally in wild birds and circulate in migratory populations. HPAI can cause mass disease and mortality in infected poultry but there have been no human cases of avian influenza from exposure to wild birds in North America.

The federal government are providing lots of good information on how to limit the spread of this disease which you can find at – https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/migratory-game-bird-hunting/avian-influenza-wild-birds.html. The main take home is do not handle wild birds, take precautions if you keep birds at home or work and report any larger groups of dead or sick birds using the contact information on that page. The federal government are continue to update their information and will change their advice based on the latest data. 

-Amanda

Spring is Arriving!

Reports have been coming in recently about some of our early arriving migratory birds! The first Canada Goose in an IBA was reported on March 16th at Oak Hammock Marsh. In more urban environments the first Peregrine Falcon was spotted on March 17th at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg and identified as Hart the next day.

First Canada Goose sighting at Oak Hammock Marsh WMA. Photo from Oak Hammock Marsh.

For many of us the long Manitoba winters mean we go 4-6 months without practicing our ID skills for many of our migratory birds. If you are getting into birding for the first time, or looking for some options to refresh your bird identification skills, or get into citizen science here are just a few free resources to keep you up to date on the sights and sounds of birds in the spring.

1. Check out various webinars

The Manitoba IBA Program spring webinars series is gearing up for April and May. We will be including some bird identification webinars in our mix this year along with some exciting new topics. Stay tuned for the announcement soon! In the meantime, the majority of our past webinars are available to watch on the IBA Manitoba Youtube account here. These webinars are specific to birding in Manitoba and include Grassland Birds, Shorebirds, Wetlands Birds and Bird Species at Risk.

2. Field Guide Apps for sights and sounds

If you are more likely to carry your cell phone along with you than a printed bird guide, consider using a free mobile app like Merlin. You can download “bird packs” local to your area, and once downloaded it can be used without an internet connection. You can browse through birds as you would in a field guide, or you can try giving a description, taking a photo or sound recording of your mystery bird and see if Merlin can identify it for you. There many different birding apps to choose from, some free and some paid.

If you are not into electronics while birding, but don’t want to carry around a bird ID book, the Manitoba IBA program has several habitat-based quick ID guides that are available for free both on our website and as a printed copy. Grassland birds, shorebirds, wetland birds and birds of Churchill and the Nelson River Estuary are all available.

3. eBird.org

eBird.org is a strong resource for birders and I am always learning about new ways to use it. eBird uses birding checklists submitted by citizen scientists to track abundance and distribution of birds across the landscape. We use the eBird “IBA Protocol” to track birds within our Manitoba IBAs by our volunteers. They even have a mobile app that lets you enter your birding checklists without an internet connection! You can also use the maps and bar charts to explore when are where certain species are sighted historically, or more recently. There is way too much to describe here, but you can check out these guides to getting started on eBird.org or eBird mobile app prior to spring migration!

Example of a bar chart generated for Whitewater Lake IBA for bird timings. April is coming up fast with migratory bird sightings to become more and more common!

Map generated from eBird that shows locations of White-faced Ibis sightings in the last five years. You can change species, locations and dates to see what birds and found where (and when).

4. BirdCast

BirdCast is a website that uses weather surveillance radar to create bird migration forecast maps, real-time migration maps and local bird migration alerts. Unfortunately, the maps only extend to the Canada-US border, but as concentrations of birds move through the United States on spring migration, we can use the maps to predict when they might arrive in Manitoba. There are many studies that show strong ties between weather and migration rates. Additionally, large numbers of birds actually show up on Doppler radar themselves!

Example of a bird forecast predicted by BirdCast. I watch for areas of migration intensity to move towards the Canada/ USA border, and then I know that they will be in southern Manitoba shortly.

Did we miss anything you consider essential to gear up to spring migration? Let us know!

-Amanda