COSEWIC Updates 2020

‘Tis the time of year again – not the holiday season – instead the annual COSEWIC meeting. COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) is an independent advisory panel that provides information to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change in Canada. They are responsible for identifying and assessing the conservation status of wildlife species in Canada.

At COSEWIC meetings Species Specialist Subcommittees (say that three times fast!) meet to determine changes to COSEWIC wildlife rankings and determine the urgency for wildlife species to receive COSEWIC assessments. These rankings sort wildlife candidates into different risk categories (special concern, threatened, endangered, extirpated) after an assessment and different priority categories (high, mid and low priority) prior to a COSEWIC assessment.

Changes to Species at Risk Status:

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs was assessed by COSEWIC as Threatened. Previously Lesser Yellowlegs was a Priority for assessment by COSEWIC. Lesser Yellowlegs can be found in many of our IBAs such as Whitewater, Oak Lake/ Plum Lake, Shoal Lakes and Oak Hammock Marsh IBA, just to name a few.

Lesser Yellowlegs. Photo by Christian Artuso.

Canada Warbler

Some good news here! Previously ranked as Threatened by COSEWIC, now re-assessed as Special Concern. While we don’t have an IBA specifically triggered by the Canada Warbler, we do sometimes get a glimpse of them during migration season. Otherwise look for them in the Boreal Forest during breeding season.

Canada Warbler. Photo by Dale Bonk/Audubon Photography Awards

Bird Species up for Assessment in 2021:

Horned Lark– High Priority

Seven of the eight subspecies are listed as priorities for COSEWIC assessment. The eighth subspecies is already listed as endangered. Subspecies of Horned Lark listed as occurring in Manitoba are the Saskatchewan Horned Lark, Hoyt’s Horned Lark and the Desert Horned Lark. Long term declines of these subspecies range from 52%-89% (1970-2018) and short-term declines range from 15%-42% (2008-2018) from sources such as the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count.

Horned Lark. Photo by Christoph Moning/ Cornell All About Birds

Snowy Owl – High Priority

Snowy Owl populations are thought to have declined to approximately 15% of their historical numbers worldwide. The Snowy Owl breeds on the northern edges of Manitoba and northward on the arctic tundra. We more often see Snowy Owls in Manitoba during the winter season. Threats contributing to this decline are mostly unknown, but the rapid pace of climate change is likely a key driver on the breeding grounds.

Snowy Owl. Photo by Mark Benavides/ Cornell All About Birds.

Other species still on candidate list from prior to 2020:

Sanderling – High Priority

Pectoral Sandpiper – High Priority

Stilt Sandpiper – High Priority

Dunlin – High Priority

Semipalmated Sandpiper – High Priority

Killdeer – High Priority

Whimbrel – High Priority

Connecticut Warbler – High Priority

Le Conte’s Sparrow – Mid Priority

Upland Sandpiper – Mid Priority

Long-billed Dowitcher – Mid Priority

American Golden Plover – Mid priority

Purple Martin – Mid Priority

Blackpoll Warbler – Mid Priority

Arctic Tern – Mid Priority

Black Tern – Low Priority

Western Wood-Pewee – Low Priority

Brewer’s Blackbird – Low Priority

American Kestrel – Low Priority

Pine Siskin – Low Priority

If you are interested in other types of wildlife discussed in recent COSEWIC meetings check out the links below:

Summary of COSEWIC Wildlife Species Assessments, November 2020

COSEWIC Candidate Wildlife Species

IBA Bird Highlights of 2020

Piping Plovers at Whitewater Lake IBA

Piping Plover have been seen on the west side of Whitewater Lake multiple times in past years. We are excited to report that there were multiple Piping Plover sightings this year at Whitewater Lake. The first sighting this year was by three Manitoba birders on May 15th, 2020, and the second Piping Plover happened at on July 13th. There were multiple sightings of a pair of plovers and it was assumed that a breeding attempt failed. Regardless, still exciting observations for Manitoba and we will keep our fingers crossed for next breeding season!

The Piping Plover is listed as an endangered species in both Canada and Manitoba.

Whooping Cranes at Whitewater Lake IBA

Another set of exciting sightings from Whitewater Lake this year!

A single Whooping Crane was spotted at Whitewater Lake on April 21, 2020, likely on spring migration.

Next, a Whooping Crane was seen by a birder on July 26, 2020. This bird was not banded, so likely a Whooping Crane that came from the Wood Buffalo National Park breeding population. On August 20-22 several birders once again saw what was likely the same crane on the west side of Whitewater Lake near to where the July sighting took place. This sighting definitely would have needed a spotting scope as the crane was very far off in the distance, in the middle of a farmer’s wheatfield.

Whooping Cranes are listed as an endangered species in Canada and Manitoba.

Tundra Swans at Saskatchewan River Delta IBA

Joel Kayer’s springtime count of (mostly) Tundra Swans in the Carrot Valley (near The Pas), netted the Saskatchewan River Delta IBA an IBA trigger for a large congregation of species. He counted 26,111 individuals over approximately two hours on May 7, 2020. This count surpassed the global and regional IBA thresholds (3000 and 1900 individuals respectively).

It seemed like the habitat and weather created the “perfect storm” for swans, as Joel observed “Perfect conditions with all swamps and lakes frozen to the north.  Lots of sheet water over ample crop residue and crops still in swath”. Lots of local food, and the inability of swans to move further north, likely created a bottle neck in the Carrot Valley.

Sabine’s Gull at Delta Marsh IBA and Saskatchewan River Delta IBA

Sabine’s Gull. Photo by C. Nikkel.

An immature Sabine’s Gull was spotted and photographed at the Delta Beach area of Delta Marsh IBA by Cam Nikkel on September 7th. Sabine’s Gulls are small gulls with forked tails and unique colouration, that is a standout from other gull species. They breed in the high arctic and overwinter in coastal central America. However, despite the migration flight path you might expect (as the crow flies), instead most individuals migrate along the west coast, and thus they are not commonly seen on migration in central Canada.

Sabine’s Gull (right) with Ring-billed Gull. Photo by C. Nikkel.

David Raitt also saw a Sabine’s Gull this year; his record was at Sunset Beach on Clearwater Lake (Saskatchewan River Delta IBA). This sighting took place on June 11th.

Franklin’s Gulls at Delta Marsh IBA

Cal Cuthbert hit an IBA trigger with his count of Franklin’s Gulls at Delta Marsh. He counted 15,000 gulls on September 5, 2020. The IBA trigger was for a large congregation of a single species, with the global and regional IBA thresholds for Franklin’s gulls at 9,800 individuals for both triggers. This has not been a one-time occurrence for Cal, he also mentioned “From my experiences over the years out here (mainly pre eBird) many FRGU [Franklin’s Gull] concentrations have typically numbered into the thousands, occasionally tens of thousands, especially pre fall migration”.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Delta Marsh IBA

There have been multiple sightings of Lesser Black-backed Gulls this year at Delta Marsh IBA. The first sighting was during spring migration on May 5th at Delta Beach by Cal. It was first seen on Provincial Road 227 near the landfill, and then seen on a sandbar on the east side of the eastern most beach on May 24th. Sightings continued periodically on and near the Road 227 landfill until September 17th. The number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls ranged from 1-3 individuals seen at one time during the season; however, photos permitting a comparison of markings show that at least four were present, although only one was an adult.

Harlequin Ducks at Delta Marsh IBA and Willow Island

A female or immature Harlequin Duck was spotted at Delta Marsh IBA by Rob Parsons and Jo Swartz on October 24th. It was difficult to spot due to wave action in the water off Delta Beach. This is not the first Harlequin Duck spotted at the IBA. One was seen in 2016 during an IBA blitz by Matt Gasner near St Ambroise at the end of August.

Another Harlequin Duck was also spotted this fall near Gimli (Willow Island Road) by Jan Bradley on November 8th.

Late Season Virginia Rail at Netley-Libau Marsh IBA

While not a rare species, a late season Virginia Rail was found (deceased) in a yard site in Netley-Libau Marsh IBA on November 4th. The bird was found by Dan and Allison, and news was passed along by IBA caretakers Ryon and Hazel Blenderhassett. Other eBird records for Virginia Rails in the area are primarily for June and July, with one seen in September.

Burrowing Owl in Southwestern Mixed Grass Prairie IBA

Wild Burrowing Owl seen at one of the nest sites in southwestern Manitoba. Photo by C. Artuso.

Two wild Burrowing Owl nests were reported in southwestern Manitoba this year by the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program (MBORP). MBORP runs captive-release and monitoring of burrowing owls in the region, so they keep track of where nests and owls are location – as thus know when a wild owl is reported (as opposed to a captive-release individual). So not only were there wild burrowing owls at these sites, there were also two successful nests by two wild owl pairs. These records are the first records of wild Burrowing Owls breeding in Manitoba since 2011.

One pair nested in the Southwestern Mixed-Grass Prairie IBA. This pair was reported by the landowner who saw the male standing on a fence post. This The landowner then contacted MBORP, who assessed that the site had a nest. This pair of owls used an artificial nest burrow that was installed by MBORP in 2017. The owls at this site fledged six young.

Burrowing Owl Young from the nest in the Southwestern Mixed-Grass Prairie IBA banded by MBORP. Photo from MBORP.

The second pair nested near Whitewater Lake IBA was spotted by Alex of MBORP while driving around the southwest. She said “The other nest I found while driving around in southwestern MB. I spotted a male owl fly to a burrow. I observed from a distance for quite some time and then spotted the female.” This pair nested in a naturally occurring badger burrow. The owls at this site fledged five young.

If you would like to know more about the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program (and read the stories of these owls as they unfolded this past summer) check out MBORP’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

Burrowing Owls are listed as endangered at both a federal and provincial level.

Chestnut-collared Longspurs at Ellice-Archie Spyhill IBA

This sighting comes to us courtesy of Tim Poole, who was conducting bird counts at the Ellice-Archie Community Pasture. He recorded a checklist of 67 Chestnut-collared Longspurs in one day during a survey on June 23, 2020. This is an IBA trigger for the number of pairs. The next day Tim saw another 28 Longspurs in a different portion of the IBA.

Chestnut-collared Longspurs are listed as threated at a federal and provincial level.

Smith’s Longspur at Riverton Sandy Bar IBA

The Smith’s Longspur(s) seen at Riverton Sandy Bar IBA also deserves a mention on this list. They were first spotted on fall migration on September 24th by Joanne, caretaker of the IBA, on the sandspit. checklists also list the Longspur on September 26th and 27th both on the sandspit and near the Sandy Bar parking lot. While Longspurs migrate through Riverton Sandy Bar their small size, cryptic colouration (similar between species) and tendency to be inflight (rather than still) makes identification of the Smith’s Longspur certainly tricky! On one previous occasion, we recorded this seldom seen species during one of our weed pulls on the sandbar.

Smith’s Longspur. Photo by J. Smith

Other sightings of Smith’s Longspurs this year have been near Altona (spring migration), Fort Whyte Alive in Winnipeg (fall migration), and Grand Beach/Grand Marais (fall migration).

Purple Sandpiper at Churchill and Vicinity IBA

With increased caution about travel this season, there have been fewer birding reports coming out of northern Manitoba. One interesting report we did hear about was the presence of a Purple Sandpiper this fall in Churchill and Vicinity IBA. The Purple Sandpiper was reported by James Barber on October 23rd, 2020. It was spotted approximately halfway between the town of Churchill and the airport.

Purple Sandpipers breed in the high arctic (further north than Churchill) and spend the winter along coastlines bordering the north Atlantic Ocean. They migrate regularly along the Hudson Bay coast but are difficult to see.

Which birds have you seen this year?

If you have any other interesting sightings, or large congregations of birds seen this season seen in Manitoba’s IBAs we would love to hear about it at

Keeping our Native Grasslands

Manitoba’s mixed-grass prairie is a habitat that is under threat. Native prairie habitats are some of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada. While this habitat may be dismissed as “just grass” on a quick pass through on the highway, it is a complex, diverse and beautiful ecosystem. This habitat is under threats such as conversion to crop agriculture and segmentation by linear features (roads, train tracks, etc.).

Threats to the habitat, also mean threats to the species who call this habitat home. There are many bird species that specialize in a variety of habitats in the mixed-grass prairie that are listed as Species at Risk in Manitoba and Canada. These include species like the Burrowing Owl, Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collard Longspur, Ferruginous Hawk, Baird’s Sparrow and Loggerhead Shrike. It also includes birds that specialize in grasslands that are not currently classified as at risk, but who still have declining populations, such as the Upland Sandpiper and Grasshopper Sparrow. The sights and sounds of these species are ubiquitous to those who live on the prairies. Unfortunately, sometimes we only know how dear to us the sights and sounds of these birds are when they are gone.

Sprague’s Pipit. This species is known for hovering high in the air while singing a musical, downward swirling song. Photo by Christian Artuso.

Almost all of the remaining native mixed-grass prairie habitat left in Manitoba is privately owned land. Nature Manitoba is one of many conservation groups working with cattle producers and landowners in Manitoba’s southwestern corner to keep this land in grass. Supporting cattle producers and other landowners who have a strong connection to, and depend on healthy mixed-grass prairie for their livelihoods is key to continuing to hold on to this threatened habitat, and the species that call it home.

Nature Manitoba is working with Birds Canada to engage landowners with grassland habitat that would like to keep or restore native mixed-grass prairie on their land. We are especially interested in working with landowners or groups of landowners wish to work together to conserve continuous portions of habitat on working landscapes.

Native mixed-grass prairie habitat in a cattle pasture near Broomhill, MB. Photo by A. Shave.

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities for incentives to keep or improving your grassland please contact Amanda at or Ian Cook at

Manitoba IBA and Birds Canada have produced several publications to help landowners, cattle producers and conservation groups who are interested in working together to keep land in grass. You can find the links below:

Summary of Southwester Manitoba Landowner and Cattle Producer Engagement Activities in 2019

Grassland Conservation Incentives Guide: A Guide to the Incentives and Programs Available for Prairie Working Landscapes

Where are they now?

We are so lucky to be right in the middle of the migration path for so many birds! It certainly makes migration season an exciting time of year. I thought we could take a quick fall migration journey with a few of the species that have triggered areas of Manitoba to become IBAs. I have picked just a few examples from different habitats and types of birds, but there are so many others that also go on amazing migratory journeys each year.

You can use to track bird movements as they are sighted by citizen scientists throughout the year. Here I focused on the large picture of fall migration, but you can also zoom in to see specific locations and habitats that birds are using through satellite imagery (assuming the location entered by the observer is precise). You can make you own maps on eBird’s Explore Species Maps. Each image can be clicked to make them full screen for easier viewing.

Chestnut-collard Longspur – Grassland habitat

IBAs: Southwestern Mix-Grass Prairie and Ellis-Archie/ Spyhill

The Chestnut-collard Longspur is a medium distance migrant. The individuals that spend their summers on Manitoba’s southwestern prairie region overwinter in the short-grass prairie and desert grasslands of the southern U.S.A. and northern Mexico. While in the breeding season they nest in pairs, during fall migration and in the nonbreeding season large numbers of individuals will flock together.

Sightings of Chestnut-collared Longspurs in August 2020.
Sightings of Chestnut-collared Longspurs in September 2020.
Sightings of Chestnut-collared Longspurs in October 2020.

Hudsonian Godwit – Northern Manitoba

IBAs: Nelson River Estuary and Marsh Point and Kaskattama River Mouth

In southern and central Manitoba we generally only see the Hudsonian Godwit as it migrates to its breeding grounds each spring. This makes sense as this Godwit is a long-distance migrant – heading from southern South America to the Arctic breeding grounds each year. We tend not to see Hudsonian Godwits on fall migration because they follow a circular migration route. In the spring they follow a more westerly migration route which can take them over Manitoba, while in the fall they go to eastern North America before heading south. Many shorebirds in the Americas have a similar migration pattern. I spent some time in 2015 volunteering as a bird monitor in the Patagonia region of Argentina, and was lucky enough to see a couple Hudsonian Godwits. It was neat to see a bird that might have migrated over Manitoba so far from home.

Sightings of Hudsonian Godwits in August 2020.
Sightings of Hudsonian Godwits in September 2020. More sightings occurred in South America as well.
Sightings of Hudsonian Godwits in October 2020. More sightings occurred in South America as well.

Rusty Blackbird

IBAs: Netley-Libau Marsh; Nelson River Estuary and Marsh Point; Churchill and Vicinity; Oak Lake/ Plum Lake; Whitewater Lake; Southwestern Mix-Grass Prairie; Delta Marsh; North, West and East Shoal Lakes; Oak Hammock Marsh, and Riverton Sandy Bar The Rusty Blackbird breeds throughout the boreal region in Canada and Alaska and migrates to spend the winter in the east-central and southeastern U.S.A. In the fall Rusty Blackbirds can be seen mixing with migrants of other blackbird species, as well as American Robins and Blue Jays.

Sightings of Rusty Blackbirds in August 2020.
Sightings of Rusty Blackbirds in September 2020.
Sightings of Rusty Blackbirds in October 2020.

Red-headed Woodpecker

IBAs: Kinosota/ Leifur and North, West and East Shoal Lakes

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a short distance migrant. Manitoba is on the northern edge of its breeding range, and we see Red-headed Woodpeckers in the south and central parts of the province. In the winter they make the (comparatively) short journey to central and southeastern U.S.A. The yearly dynamics of the location and timing of fall migration are impacted by the abundance of hard mast (seeds of hardwoods – like Oak with acorns).

Sightings of Red-headed Woodpeckers in August 2020.
Sightings of Red-headed Woodpeckers in September 2020.
Sightings of Red-headed Woodpeckers in October 2020.

You may have noticed that the four species I’ve chosen to highlight above are federally listed as Species at Risk, and two of them are provincially listed under the Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act. Seeing how ranges shift during, before and after migration really brings home that threats these species face can vary widely. This means cooperation on conservation measures is also imperative between regions, countries and continents that are lucky enough to share these birds.

Manitoba IBA at Oak Hammock Marsh Migration Festival

Amanda, Alyssa and Tim from Manitoba IBA attended Oak Hammock Marsh’s Migration Festival on September 26th, 2020. Despite a wide variety of weather conditions throughout the day, we were happy to lead a couple of shorebird walks and show off the new shorebird scrape.

The day started with Tim Poole (now the chair of the Manitoba IBA Steering Committee) leading a shorebird walk at 8:00am. We had lovely weather for the start – sunny and just a little cool, but perhaps because mother nature knew Tim had to head off at 9:00am, the skies ended our birding walk with a chilly drizzle. Despite the change in weather, we saw good numbers and a good variety of shorebirds. Shorebirds were seen at the front pond, the Coot cell (off of Muskrat Trail), the Teal cell (on the east side the Teal trail) and the shorebird scrape. We had approximately 15 participants on this walk.

For the next shorebird walk at 11:00am I (Amanda) took over as the walk leader. Unfortunately, we had a number of participants cancel due to the poor weather earlier in the morning. However, as the start time came around, there was nothing but blue skies and warming temperatures. A family of four keen birders ended up with a private tour of shorebirds around Oak Hammock!

Alyssa looking at Greater Yellowlegs at the Shorebird Scrape. Copyright A. Shave.

After the bird walks, myself and Alyssa headed out to the shorebird scrape to be Station 6 on Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre’s Migration Station activity. A variety of groups came to learn more about the scrape throughout the day and take a close up look at the variety of shorebirds, geese and ducks using the scrape and pond. By far the most numerous birds throughout most of the day were Canada Geese and Cackling Geese (hanging out nicely side-by-side for easy comparison), with Greater Yellowlegs being the most numerous shorebird. An interesting part of our time at the scrape was watching several Greater Yellowlegs being harassed by Canada Geese. However, the Yellowlegs were not quite concerned enough to un-tuck their feet so they hopped over on one leg to move away (rather than running or flying – behaviour I have not seen before).

Our bird list for the shorebird scrape around 1:00pm:

Species NameCount
Snow Goose3
Cackling Goose320
Canada Goose840
Blue-winged Teal2
Greater Scaup1
Common Goldeneye1
Pied-billed Grebe1
Pectoral Sandpiper4
Wilson’s Snipe1
Greater Yellowlegs16
Lesser Yellowlegs5
Franklin’s Gull15

In the Weeds

On September 19th volunteers headed to Riverton Sandy Bar IBA for a morning of beautiful fall weather, birding, and weed pulling. Here is a report of the successful day from Alyssa.

Our socially distanced volunteers with some of our weed pulling bags (other bags off in the distance) at the end of the day. Missing Ann, Jock, Peter and Jessica. Thank you everyone!

The morning started off by sharing coffee and snacks in the parking lot as we waited for everyone to arrive. Amanda, assuming the morning would be chilly, brought more than enough coffee for 10 people. Perhaps it was a ploy to energize the group into weed-pulling machines?!?

After mingling, we hiked the roughly 1.5km stretch to our destination. The weeds looked green and healthy as ever, even with several days of fall weather already past. The group got to work tackling areas that would be most desirable for nesting shorebird habitat. Clover, Burdock, and silverweed were quite abundant when we arrived (but not when we left!). It is not often that habitat restoration involves removing vegetation from the area, but by removing weeds we hope to improve the habitat to the sandy-beach qualities desired by some species of shorebirds and terns. The Piping Plover, for example, is a species at risk that has historically nested in this IBA. Although this species has not been seen at Sandy Bar since 2004, they nested at an undisclosed location in Manitoba in 2016. Perhaps our continued efforts will aid in its return.

Around noon the team took a well-deserved break and hiked down the spit in search of shorebirds. We saw a variety of shorebirds, waterfowl, and a few other migrants. Yellow-rumped Warblers have clearly started their migration down south, as they were one of the most abundant species recorded for the day (second to over 600 Canada Geese spotted). Some other highlights were a Ross’s Goose and a Greater White-fronted Goose. We were also lucky enough to have about 15 Sanderlings come very close to our group. They were clearly distracted by all the good grub.

As many of you may know, identifying fall shorebirds can be a bit of a challenge. Some birds, however, were quite cooperative and stood side-by-side with other species so we could have a direct comparison. By seeing them side-by side we could see the daintier qualities of a Golden Plover when compared directly with a chunkier Black-bellied Plover, as well as the black “armpit” of the Black-bellied Plover.

Joanne, Christian, Jock and Peter taking in the shorebirds, while on a birding break from weedpulling. Copyright A. Shave

A few folks popped in at different times throughout the day, but overall we had a total of 10 of us pulling weeds. Together we filled just over 20 bags to the brim with tightly packed weeds, which is about two bags a person!

Peter, Christian and Jessica pulling weeds.
Lynnea and Adam pulling weeds. Copyright A. Shave.

We would like to give a big thank you to Ann, Jessica, Peter, Jock, Lynnea, Adam, Joanne and Christian for joining us in our weed pull event this year! We are looking forward to holding future weedpull events in 2021, so stay tuned.

Thank you to Christian for providing our species list for the day.

Species NameCount
Snow Goose40
Ross’s Goose1
Greater White-fronted Goose1
Cackling Goose2
Canada Goose650
Green-winged Teal4
Ring-necked Duck2
Horned Grebe2
Black-bellied Plover6
American Golden-Plover12
Semipalmated Plover2
Pectoral Sandpiper2
Greater Yellowlegs15
Bonaparte’s Gull16
Ring-billed Gull50
Herring Gull50
Double-crested Cormorant25
American White Pelican9
American Bittern1
Bald Eagle2
Common Raven3
Black-capped Chickadee3
Marsh Wren1
American Robin3
American Pipit30
Lapland Longspur20
Fox Sparrow1
Dark-eyed Junco5
White-crowned Sparrow2
Harris’s Sparrow1
White-throated Sparrow3
Savannah Sparrow5
Common Grackle3
Northern Waterthrush1
Common Yellowthroat2
Palm Warbler3
Yellow-rumped Warbler90

Oak Lake IBA – Red-Headed Woodpecker Blitz

On August 15th we had our second IBA Blitz of the year. Volunteers travelled out to the Oak Lake/ Plum Lakes IBA in search of Red-headed Wooodpeckers.

The day started off early for several volunteers making the trip from Winnipeg to Virden area! We also had a couple of volunteers from the Brandon area join us in surveying a large section of the IBA. The weather started out wonderful for birding – we avoided the early morning rain as well as the strong afternoon winds! Our volunteers split into 3 groups for the day so that we could cover the largest area possible.

Group 1 comprised of the IBA staff (Amanda, Nate and Alyssa). We had a blackbird-happy day and our species with the highest counts were Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. We also saw 9 Eastern Wood-Pewees throughout the day.

There was a Red-headed Woodpecker here a minute ago! Habitat where Group 1 saw an adult and juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker. Copyright A. Shave.

Group 2 included Gillian, Roger and Heather. Group 2 became our most successful “shorebirders” of the day and saw many Lesser Yellowlegs, Red-necked Grebes, Marbled Godwits, and Stilt Sandpipers. They were also lucky enough to see several White-faced Ibises. They saw our most abundant species of the day -­ Franklin’s Gulls – with a count of around 2000 individuals!

Group 3 included Glennis, Cam, Paul and Lynn. Group 3 saw a large flock of nearly 30 Cedar Waxwings. Other exciting finds were a Broad-winged Hawk, Purple Martins, and a pair of Lark Sparrows.

And now on to the the Red-headed Woodpeckers! Group 2 saw the largest number of Red-headed Woodpeckers by far, with a total of nine seen, all in or around sites that were identified by blitz volunteers last year. Group 1 saw two Red-header Woodpeckers (an adult and a juvenile) together, also hanging out in an area where they had been previously seen. Despite driving through what we would expect to be good Red-headed Woodpecker habitat, Group 3 did not see any of the species. The area Group 3 was surveying was new to our Red-headed Woodpecker Blitz this year, and we now have valuable ground truthing of the possible habitat north of the Trans-Canada Highway in the Oak Lake IBA. All together we found Red-headed Woodpeckers at 6 points within the IBA and possible breeding pairs were detected at 4 points. We had a total count of 10 adults and 1 juvenile for the day.

To everyone who came out thanks for the great day and all your hard work! Collectively we saw 73 species and 3182 individual birds! Our full species list is below.

Species NameTotal
Canada Goose8
Wood Duck1
Blue-winged Teal41
Lesser Scaup1
Red-necked Grebe7
Mourning Dove74
American Coot10
Marbled Godwit5
Stilt Sandpiper4
Least Sandpiper8
Greater Yellowlegs5
Lesser Yellowlegs51
Franklin’s Gull2000
Black Tern1
Double-crested Cormorant1
Great Blue Heron8
White-faced Ibis7
Turkey Vulture2
Accipiter spp.2
Broad-winged Hawk1
Swainson’s Hawk1
Red-tailed Hawk25
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker14
Red-headed Woodpecker11
Downy Woodpecker3
Hairy Woodpecker2
Pileated Woodpecker1
Northern Flicker12
American Kestrel4
Eastern Wood-Pewee15
Eastern Phoebe3
Least Flycatcher9
Great Crested Flycatcher2
Western Kingbird13
Eastern Kingbird46
Blue-headed Vireo1
Red-eyed Vireo10
Blue Jay2
Black-billed Magpie16
American Crow25
Common Raven5
Black-capped Chickadee11
Purple Martin2
Tree Swallow12
Bank Swallow8
Barn Swallow28
Cliff Swallow20
European Starling8
Gray Catbird8
Brown Thrasher1
Eastern Bluebird5
American Robin17
Cedar Waxwing53
House Sparrow10
American Goldfinch52
Chipping Sparrow2
Clay-colored Sparrow6
Lark Sparrow2
Vesper Sparrow5
Song Sparrow2
Yellow-headed Blackbird40
Western Meadowlark23
Baltimore Oriole6
Red-winged Blackbird145
Brown-headed Cowbird54
Brewer’s Blackbird7
Common Grackle63
Yellow Warbler5

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 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
Northern Pintail900
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
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
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

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.