North, West, and East Shoal Lakes IBA Bird Blitz

On Sunday, May 6th, 14 birders split into 4 groups and covered over 177 km of the North, West, and East Shoal Lakes IBA (IBA map). With a late start to spring this year we were not sure what to expect in terms of species diversity and numbers. On Saturday, the day before the blitz, Tim Poole and Lynnea Parker noted that ice coverage on Lake Manitoba was still quite extensive at Sandy Bay Marshes IBA near Langruth. Lynnea was therefore glad to observe that West and East Shoal Lakes were mostly ice-free. North Shoal Lake was partially open along the roadsides and marshes.

122 species were observed in the morning with good numbers of waterfowl and grebes. Group 1 with Pierre, Bill, Wally, and William were particularly fond of the 171 American Robins and 159 Red-winged Blackbirds they thoroughly counted. However, the robins and blackbirds paled in comparison to the 611 Western Grebes which were spotted rafting together at West Shoal Lake (Group 1 checklist).

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View of West Shoal Lake with a large number of Western Grebes rafting in the distance, photo by Pierre Richard

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Western Grebe, photo by William Rideout

At the Sandy Bay Grebe Watch event on May 5th, Tim and Lynnea had been hoping to see several hundred Western Grebes. Due to the heavy ice cover, only 112 Western Grebes were counted. It would seem our missing Grebes were over at West Shoal Lake instead! A further 500 were spotted by Bob Jones at Delta Marsh the previous day.

Group 2 with Jo, Betsy, Christian, and Mohammad surveyed the east side of East and North Shoal Lakes. Christian turned back the clock and took up his Atlas nickname ‘Moose Legs’, walking the rejuvenated wetland also known as PR415, which runs between North and East Shoal Lakes (Christian’s Checklist). The decommissioned, and partially flooded road was highly productive with 94 species, including high counts of waterfowl, Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Gulls, and Blackbirds. Unfortunately for Christian, he missed the Snowy Egret spied by Group #4 which was found on the same decommissioned road just outside his survey area to the west. Group #4 didn’t feel bad however, as Christian managed to find a Clark’s Grebe which they didn’t see. Photos below feature a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs (upper left), pair of Canvasbacks (middle left), flock of American White Pelicans (lower left), and a Marbled Godwit preening (right) (photos by Christian Artuso). (Additional checklists for this group: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5)

 

 

Group 3 with Joanne, Richard, Louise, and Eric surveyed the IBA area north of North Shoal Lake. They had many species of waterbirds despite having less open water in their area. Good sights from Group 3 included 4 Trumpeter Swans, 18 Red-necked Grebes, and 1 Semipalmated Plover (Checklist). The photos below by Joanne Smith include Red-necked Grebe (Left) and Willet (Right).

 

 

Group 4 with Lynnea, Cam, and Jeff surveyed the northern part of West Shoal Lake, west side of East Shoal Lake, and west side of North Shoal Lake. The highlights from this group included a Snowy Egret, good numbers of Green-winged Teal and Blue-winged Teal, and 11 Great Egret. Access to the open water was limited, but the marshy areas were moderately productive. Photos below were taken by Cam Nikkel and feature a Forster’s Tern (Left) and a Great Egret (Right).

 

 

Overall, highlights of the day included: 13 Greater White-fronted Goose, 766 Western Grebe, 1 Clark’s Grbe, 490 American White Pelican, 6 American Bittern, 32 Great Egret, 1 Snowy Egret, 3 Black-crowned Night-Heron, 116 Sandhill Crane, and 58 Bonaparte’s Gull.

After the morning blitz everyone gathered at Rosie’s Cafe in Inwood for a glorious lunch before wrapping up the event.

Compiled IBA Event Checklist:

Snow Goose 1,455
Ross’s Goose 8
Greater White-fronted Goose 13
Cackling Goose 9
Canada Goose 1,554
Trumpeter Swan 8
Tundra Swan 99
Wood Duck 2
Blue-winged Teal 340
Northern Shoveler 73
Gadwall 59
American Wigeon 26
Mallard 591
Northern Pintail 42
Green-winged Teal 428
Canvasback 662
Redhead 75
Ring-necked Duck 145
Greater Scaup 7
Lesser Scaup 313
Greater/Lesser Scaup 4
Bufflehead 31
Common Goldeneye 17
Hooded Merganser 4
Common Merganser 18
Red-breasted Merganser 8
Ruddy Duck 19
Ruffed Grouse 1
Sharp-tailed Grouse 1
Common Loon 15
Pied-billed Grebe 45
Horned Grebe 56
Red-necked Grebe 36
Eared Grebe 1
Western Grebe 766
Clark’s Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 479
American White Pelican 490
American Bittern 6
Great Blue Heron 14
Great Egret 32
Snowy Egret 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 2
Northern Harrier 11
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 15
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 17
Virginia Rail 3
Sora 3
American Coot 537
Sandhill Crane 116
American Avocet 8
Semipalmated Plover 1
Killdeer 41
Marbled Godwit 19
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Wilson’s Snipe 52
Wilson’s Phalarope 7
Greater Yellowlegs 22
Willet 23
Lesser Yellowlegs 114
Bonaparte’s Gull 58
Franklin’s Gull 1,305
Ring-billed Gull 2,802
Herring Gull 102
gull sp. 742
Caspian Tern 3
Common Tern 3
Forster’s Tern 173
Mourning Dove 15
Belted Kingfisher 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 31
Downy Woodpecker 3
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 28
Pileated Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 6
Merlin 4
Eastern Phoebe 9
Blue Jay 6
Black-billed Magpie 25
American Crow 13
Common Raven 15
Tree Swallow 98
Barn Swallow 35
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Marsh Wren 23
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7
Eastern Bluebird 4
Hermit Thrush 4
American Robin 208
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 15
American Pipit 5
Orange-crowned Warbler 6
Palm Warbler 6
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
LeConte’s Sparrow 2
American Tree Sparrow 2
Chipping Sparrow 1
Clay-colored Sparrow 6
Lark Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 9
Harris’s Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 7
Vesper Sparrow 3
Savannah Sparrow 53
Song Sparrow 115
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 52
Yellow-headed Blackbird 665
Western Meadowlark 23
Red-winged Blackbird 2,676
Brown-headed Cowbird 54
Rusty Blackbird 104
Brewer’s Blackbird 32
Common Grackle 115
Purple Finch 1

Sandy Bay Grebe Watch

On Saturday, May 5th we held a Grebe Watch event at the Sandy Bay Marshes IBA. The Sandy Bay Marshes are located along the western shoreline of Lake Manitoba, just east of Langruth and Sandy Bay First Nation (Map). This IBA is known for its large concentrations of Western Grebes in the spring, with 500-1000 breeding pairs recorded in 1986! The purpose of this event was to see if Western Grebes (and other Grebes) were present and document their numbers.

On Friday, May 4th Tim Poole (IBA Coordinator) noted that the bays along the shoreline of Lake Manitoba were still heavily covered in ice. In light of the bays being covered in ice, the Grebe Watch was cancelled for individuals who had signed up from afar, such as Winnipeg. The event went ahead for local residents. The cold start to spring this year has seemingly delayed spring migration for many species of waterbirds.

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Hollywood Beach, Sandy Bay Marshes. Photo by Lynnea A. Parker

It was a successful turnout with 8 people from the community and 1 person from Winnipeg joining us at Hollywood Beach. We started off the morning by gathering on the main beach and scanning for waterbirds. Tim and Lynnea Parker (IBA Assistant) set up spotting scopes to show the public a variety of species, including Western Grebe, Tundra Swan, Redhead, Canvasback, Bonaparte’s Gull, Common Tern, and Marbled Godwit.

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Western Grebe, Photo by Tim Poole

As anticipated, the Western Grebes were present in the IBA, but not in the high numbers we were initially hoping to see. We suspect the cold weather and ice along the shoreline was a contributing factor to the low numbers. In total, we recorded 70 species of birds including 112 Western Grebe. At the end of this blog post there is a  list of species which were detected.

We would like to thank everyone who did attend the Grebe Watch event, and we hope this opportunity has encouraged more people to take an interest in monitoring and reporting birds within the Sandy Bay Marshes.

Species Detected (70 Total)

24        Canada Goose

35        Tundra Swan

150      Blue-winged Teal

1          Northern Shoveler

26        Gadwall

12        American Wigeon

54        Mallard

6          Northern Pintail

280      Green-winged Teal

16        Redhead

8          Ring-necked Duck

34        Lesser Scaup

6          Bufflehead

4          Common Goldeneye

8          Common Merganser

1          Red-breasted Merganser

3          Ruddy Duck

6          Common Loon

3          Red-necked Grebe

112      Western Grebe

46        Double-crested Cormorant

18        American White Pelican

3          American Bittern

1          Turkey Vulture

4          Northern Harrier

2          Bald Eagle

2          Broad-winged Hawk

6          Red-tailed Hawk

2          Rough-legged Hawk

1          Virginia Rail

1          Sora

8          American Coot

12        Sandhill Crane

12        Killdeer

6          Marbled Godwit

3          Willet

9          Lesser Yellowlegs

6          Bonaparte’s Gull

4          Franklin’s Gull

16        Ring-billed Gull

2          Herring Gull

74        Common Tern

45        Rock Pigeon

2          Mourning Dove

4          Northern Flicker

2          American Kestrel

1          Merlin

3          Eastern Phoebe

1          Black-billed Magpie

1          American Crow

3          Common Raven

5          Tree Swallow

12        Barn Swallow

2          Black-capped Chickadee

1          Marsh Wren

1          Swainson’s Thrush

3          Hermit Thrush

2          American Robin

1          European Starling

25        Palm Warbler

6          Dark-eyed Junco

2          White-throated Sparrow

1          Savannah Sparrow

10        Song Sparrow

6          Swamp Sparrow

45        Yellow-headed Blackbird

4          Western Meadowlark

400      Red-winged Blackbird

18        Brewer’s Blackbird

6          Common Grackle

1          Yellow-rumped Warbler