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.

Sandy Bay IBA Blitz-Langruth-Manitoba-000-LARGE-Lynnea A Parker2-1080641

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.


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

A Saturday Visit to Langruth Harvest Festival and the Langruth-RM of Lakeview IBA

Last Saturday, September 23rd, we were invited to participate in the Langruth Harvest Festival. Langruth is located on the west side of Lake Manitoba, strategically positioned between 3 IBAs, Langruth-RM of Lakeview (or Big Grass Marsh), Sandy Bay Marsh and Kinosota-Leifur.

An early arrival gave ample opportunity to drive PR265 which cuts through the middle of the IBA. Among the highlights was a late Red-headed Woodpecker and several thousand Snow Geese.


A few larger flocks of Snow Goose were encountered in the IBA on Saturday morning. Copyright Tim Poole


White and blue morph Snow Geese were present at the weekend. Copyright Tim Poole


The town greeter. Copyright Tim Poole

Driving into Langruth itself is always a birdy experience. The marsh and the local IBA are a significant part of this community which considers itself the ‘birding capital of Manitoba’. Greeting visitors driving in on the highway to the south is a giant Great Blue Heron.

Further exploration reveals that the heron is not the only feature of the IBA present in the town. Driving back in from the west you come across a rock. But not just any old rock. This one has a plaque on the front with a tribute to the marsh. Reading it (reproduced below) we find that Big Grass Marsh was Ducks Unlimited’s first ever wetland conservation project back in 1938. The fact that the marsh is now under the largest conservation agreement in conservation history thanks to donations of land from the RM’s of Westbourne and Lakeview (and negotiated by our partners at MHHC) merely adds to the historical and biological significance of this IBA. On the side of the memorial stone is a map of the marsh showing the original control structure and the main road access.

All photos of the Big Grass Marsh Memorial Stone copyright Tim Poole.

By now it was time to do some work and off to the Langruth rink for the fair. A steady stream of people would come to our tables. We did a special pine cone bird feeder craft to provide an opportunity to speak with local children about why birds migrate and the need for a steady supply of food in winter for those birds which do not migrate. On the other side we provide information and resources for adults on the local IBAs, not just Big Grass Marsh but Sandy Bay Marshes and Kinosota-Leifur as well. We also attempted a new approach to getting more local people involved in monitoring the IBAs by asking people to send us sightings of particular species: Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese for Big Grass Marsh; Western Grebe for Sandy Bay Marshes and; Red-headed Woodpecker for Kinosota-Leifur. This is already bearing fruit with Paul reporting 125 Sandhill Cranes just last night. Thanks Paul!


Our stall. Copyright Tim Poole

Thank you to the Langruth Harvest Fair for the invitation, especially Michelle Teichroeb who has been very helpful in providing information before and during the festival and even took a couple of IBA signs away to be put up locally.

Finally, here is the short bird list from the Langruth-RM of Lakeview IBA

Snow Goose 2539
Ross’s Goose 10
Canada Goose 44
Northern Shoveler 2
Mallard 5
Northern Pintail 19
Green-winged Teal 7
Great Blue Heron 3
Northern Harrier 2
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Lesser Yellowlegs 4
Mourning Dove 1
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 17
Common Raven 2
Marsh Wren 2
European Starling 50
Western Meadowlark 1
Common Grackle 150
Pine Siskin 20