Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Central Canada   14 May - 3 June 1995,

David Kelly

My mother-in-law lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and being a dutiful son-in-law we decided to visit her for the first time nearly six years after getting married. As we rather cleverly timed our trip to coincide with the end of the VE day celebrations in Europe we could not get a flight to Canada from Scotland.  Our round about route was Air UK (now KLM uk) from Edinburgh to London Gatwick then to Minneapolis St Paul by NorthWest and then onto Winnipeg. We arrived at around 10 p.m. on the 13 May.

My information sources for the trip were The Rough Guide to Canada, A Bird Finding Guide to Canada by J. Cam Finlay and The National Geographic Guide to North American Birds. Later at Oak Hammock I was able to buy The Birder's Guide to South-eastern Manitoba and The Birds of Oak Hammock Marsh.

14 May 1995

My first day in Winnipeg. Ted and Linda's (Linda is my mother-in-law and Ted is her husband - stepfather in law?) house is in North Kildonan and backs onto a large pond. I had seen my first two North American birds at Minneapolis St Paul airport, a Common Starling and a Tree Swallow, and I was looking forward to a bit more variety today. The pond didn't disappoint me this morning as a swirl of hirundines were feeding over it, These were mainly Sand Martins (Bank Swallows), Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows but among them were a single Cliff Swallow and a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a couple of Purple Martins.

The gardens around the lake were rather new with few shrubs or trees and there were a few small birds American Robins, House Sparrows, Common Starlings and Common Grackles were the commonest but warbler migration was evident in two Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Blackpoll Warbler. On the water there were Canada Geese, Mallard, three female Buffleheads, a pair of Blue-winged teal and lots of Ring-billed Gulls. Around the shore a Killdeer had a territory.  As is often the case this lake never had anything like this variety of birds on it for the rest of the trip.

15 May 1995

We went shopping today and so the only birding was in the evening when I was dropped off at Kildonan Park.  It was rather cold and a little breezy but this appeared to be of benefit to the birding.  There were some Wood Ducks on the Red River but little else while the still bare trees had lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers ticking away. There were White-throated Sparrows in the leaf litter but when I moved away from the river to the bushes and trees around the Chief Peguis Creek I saw a lot more birds including a solitary Solitary Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch and Black and White Warbler. As I walked back to the house I saw a singing Western Meadowlark on the telephone wires.

16 May 1995

Again I spent the day in the city but this evening we went for a walk along the Red River again.  The spring floods had left a lot of waterlogged soil in this area. The first birds we saw perplexed me. They were obviously sparrows with pink bills and black throats and caps, singing a distinctive song.  These were Harris's Sparrows on their way north from their southern US wintering grounds and, it would appear, a reasonably good find for a visiting Scottish birder on his second day's birding in Manitoba. Along the riverbank we flushed a Spotted Sandpiper and saw small groups of Lesser Scaup on the water. The woodlands had lots of small birds, more than Kildonan Park and these included American robin, Brown Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler and Hermit Thrush.

17 May 1995

Today we went birding at Oak Hammock Marsh and I was smitten as I hail from an area where the biggest wetlands are ponds and the variety and numbers of birds just doesn't compare to Oak Hammock in spring. Flocks of American White Pelicans were above us while at eye level Franklin's Gulls and Forster's Terns were everywhere. Of course there were Blackbirds, Yellow-headed and Red-winged. I, however, wanted to see peeps and found a mixed flock on a patch of mud and started trying to sort them out. It was great, a flock of Calidris sandpipers with not a Dunlin among them. I managed to identify Least, White-rumped and Baird's Sandpipers as well as Willet, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitcher.

Other shorebirds here included Marbled Godwit, Wilson's Phalarope and American Avocet. The wildfowl were impressive including lingering Whistling Swan, Canada Geese, Mallard, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Duck. American Coots were as interesting as their Eurasian counterparts but the Black-necked (Eared) Grebe is a beauty wherever you see it.

Another pleasing sight were the Hen (Northern) Harriers which terrorised the marsh birds as they hunted in good numbers. Here in Scotland they are scarce birds of heather moorland, persecuted for their perceived depredations on the chicks of Red Grouse. To see them so easily was a highlight of the trip. The Red-tailed Hawks didn't seem to bother the Marsh residents quite so much.

18 May 1995

Tried Assiniboine Park this morning, managing to see a Solitary Vireo in the bushes before we had to go back early. An Osprey flew over the house at lunchtime was some compensation for the curtailed trip and that evening I revisited Kildonan Park. Now, as we say in these parts, Kildonan Park was hoachin'. There were migrants all over the bushes and we were having a great time with the Magnolia Warblers American Redstarts, Olive Sided Flycatchers, Swainson's Thrushes, Veeries and others.

19 May 1995

Despite it being cold and rain we traipsed out to Birds Hill Provincial Park, north of Winnipeg. Here we could again appreciate the diversity of small birds in this part of Canada seeing many warblers including our first Mourning, Cape May and Canada Warblers. Other sightings included our first Canadian Black-billed Magpies and our first Blue Jays.

20 May 1995

Another trip to Kildonan Park but nothing new seen and there were less birds about then two days ago.

22 May 1995

After a non-birding day yesterday we visited my wife's aunt at Winnipeg Beach on Lake Winnipeg. A lakeside walk was good for a single Snow Goose, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Terns, Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants. The only new passerines were Yellow and Wilson's Warblers in the lakeside willows but I enjoyed watching the American Redstarts, Blue Jays and Tree Swallows around the houses at the barbecue.

23 May 1995

We began our journey across the prairie today.  Wendy, my sister-in-law had come from the UK at the same time as us and we had been joined by her husband Gordon who had flown from their home in Zimbabwe. Linda kindly gave us a loan of her car and now we were heading to Banff. As a first timer on the Trans-Canada I loved it, the Canadian speed limit is slow enough for some backseat birding and I saw lots of species at the side of the road. The highlights were a huge shallow lake beside the road in the middle of Saskatchewan which was lined with shorebirds and covered in waterfowl but the driver wouldn't stop to allow me to scope the lake (probably wisely as I could have been there for hours), and seeing the raptors hunting by the road. These included Hen Harrier, plenty of Red-tailed Hawks, a few Swainson's Hawks and a single Ferruginous Hawk.

Lifers included Long-billed Curlew, California Gull and Sharp-tailed Grouse. A mammalian highlight was the Pronghorns. At the first one I saw I pointed it out and explained how rare these were. Then we saw some more, and some more, then some more. Everyone else then asked me "Exactly how rare are Pronghorns?"

24 May 1995

After an overnight stay in Medicine Hat, Alberta, we headed for the Dinosaur Provincial Park. What an excellent site, I enjoyed the tour and its Mountain Bluebirds and I enjoyed seeing Lark Sparrows at the visitor centre. The dinosaurs were rather interesting too. On the way to and from the park we had driven through prairie seeing Loggerhead Shrike, McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs and Horned Larks. Around the park picnic area we saw Eastern Kingbird, Western Wood Pewee, American Kestrel, Cooper's Hawk, Vesper Sparrow and others. The Horned Larks had black and white face markings, unlike the yellow and white faces oof the birds I have seen in the UK.

25 May 1995

We spent the night in Calgary and headed to Banff in the morning and booked into the Rocky Mountain Resort set in the Lodgepole Pine forests on the outskirts of town. That afternoon we went to the rather birdless Vermilion Lakes and drove up Mount Norquay.  We saw few birds but did see Mule Deer. Elk and Bighorn Sheep.  A compensation was provided by the Violet-green Swallows which were common around the Resort. In the evening I went for a walk in the woods, although it was a bit on the cool side, and I found it very difficult to connect with any birds other than American Robins and Gray Jays.  Eventually I did manage to see Chipping Sparrow, Mountain Chickadee and Aubudon's race of the Yellow-rumped Warbler.

26 May 1995

The weather forecast for the Banff side of the Rockies was poor so we decided to go west into British Columbia and the Kootenay National Park.  We stopped at the Vermilion Pass and the Great Continental Divide where there are supposed to be Hawk Owls in the burnt trees but all I could see was a slate coloured Dark-eyed Junco.  Further into Kootenay and the birding improved with White-crowned Sparrow, McGillivray's Warbler and Townsend's Warbler all seen for the first time on this trip.  At the Paintpots, where we picnicked among some spectacular mountain scenery, we were joined by a pair of Gray Jays and I saw a male Common (Red) Crossbill on the trail.

As we drove back to Banff we saw a Bald Eagle over the Bow River Parkway and an Osprey over the Vermilion Lakes. We went to see Lake Minnewanka in the early evening and here I saw Buff-bellied Pipit, Oregon Dark-eyed Junco, Great Northern Diver (Common Loon), Red-necked Grebe and Western Grebe.  It was still cold and there was some sleet.

27 May 1995

A better day dawned so we headed north into Jasper National Park to visit the Columbia Ice Field and now Clark's Nutcrackers became evident.  We stopped at the aptly named Wildfowl Lake which had obviously just thawed and through the scope I could see Lesser Scaup, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and some Barrow's Goldeneyes. A melee of parked cars and coaches at the side of the road caught our attention.  A Black Bear was feeding in low shrubs beside the road under the scrutiny of around a hundred tourists. At the Athabasca Galcier the only birds seen were Canada Geese and Barn Swallow.

In the evening I went for another walk in the woods around the resort and some Elk I was watching led me to a grassy clearing.  Here at last were a few birds and I was able to identify Hammond's Flycatcher among the Wilson's, Yellow and Aubudon's Warblers, Mountain Chickadees, American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos and Chipping Sparrows.

28 & 29 May 1995

The journey back to Winnipeg via Regina.  The lake in Saskatchewan was still covered in birds and we still didn't stop. Saw the only Chimney Swifts of the trip as we entered the western suburbs of Winnipeg.

30 May 1995

We left Winnipeg again and headed north westwards to the Riding Mountain National Park and booked into the Mooswa Resort in Wasagaming.  In the afternoon we went to a picnic area on the far shore of Clear Lake. At one point I sneaked into the woods to answer a call of nature and was able to get excellent views of a pair of Connecticut Warblers foraging under the trees. Later we saw a male Purple Finch singing in the birches outside our cabin.

31 May 1995

I got up very early and had a productive walk around Wasagaming. Just outside the cabin was a small flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks with lots of American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Wrens and, one of my highlights, a single Evening Grosbeak.  When everyone else got up we drove to the Bison Enclosure at Lake Audy but before we left a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers had gate-crashed our breakfast by using the telephone pole outside our cabin as a drumming post.

As well as the Bison, the Audy area produced a handsome male Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Bald Eagle which sat in the lakeside trees and didn't budge.  We also saw the only Moose of the trip here.  After returning to Wasagaming Lillian and I went on the Arrowhead Trail through Aspen and Pine forest seeing a superb Broad-winged Hawk as well as a Common Loon on its nest and a single Beaver.

1 June 1995

We returned to Winnipeg and I returned to Kildonan Park where there were now more leaves and fewer birds.  A new bird for me was a splendid male Baltimore Oriole, its orange and black plumage making it look like a hot coal flitting among the trees.

2 June 1995

Gordon and Wendy went home today so after seeing them off at the airport Lillian and I went to Assiniboine Park again.  More Baltimore Orioles were seen and we caught sight of a Warbling Vireo and a Gray Catbird but we were too late in the day for it to be really productive. After lunch we went to the Fort Whyte Nature Centre where we met some Canadian birders who tried to tempt us with a male Eurasian Wigeon.  They were surprised when we said we had seen thousands of them at home, as both of us have Scottish accents I was surprised at their surprise but maybe they thought we were Newfies.  The only new bird was a Philadelphia Vireo but we saw more Baltimore Orioles and Gray Catbirds.

3 June 1995

The last day of birding and we started off at Oak Hammock where there were more shorebirds than last time. New for the trip were Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, a Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Grey (Black-bellied) Plover and American Golden Plover. Another highlight was a male Bobolink sitting on a fence line.  My last birding of the trip was at Grand Beach where I saw Common Yellowthroat, Caspian Tern and Piping Plover.

I saw 185 species of bird on this trip but managed to miss Red-eyed Vireo.  I would say that Canadian birds are a lot tamer and more colourful than European birds, although there are a lot of species in common.  I would recommend birding in southern Manitoba to anyone its superb

Trip list

01.     Great Northern Diver    Gavia immer
02.     Pied-billed Grebe    Podylimbus podiceps
03.     Red-necked Grebe     Podiceps rufogrisegna
04.     Slavonian Grebe    Podiceps auritus
05.     Black-necked Grebe    Podiceps nigricollis
06.     Western Grebe    Aechmophorus occidentalis
07.     American White Pelican    Pelecanus erythtorhynchos
08.     Great Blue Heron    Ardea herodias
09.     Tundra Swan    Cygnus columbianus
10.     Snow Goose    Anser caerulescens
11.     Canada Goose    Branta canadensis
12.     Wood Duck Aix    carolinensis
13.     American Wigeon    Anas americana
14.     Gadwall    Anas strepera
15.     Common Teal    Anas crecca
16.     Mallard Anas     playrhynchos
17.     Pintail    Anas acuta
18.     Blue-winged Teal    Anas discors
19.     Cinnamon Teal    Anas cyanoptera
20.     Northern Shoveler    Anas clypeata
21.     Redhead     Aythya americana
22.     Canvasback     Aythya valisineria
23.     Ring-necked Duck    Aythya collaris
24.     Lesser Scaup    Aythya affinis
25.     Bufflehead     Bucephala albeola
26.     Barrow's Goldeneye     Bucephala islandica
27.     Hooded Merganser     Mergus cucullatus
28.     Red-breasted Merganser    Mergus serrator
29.     Goosander     Mergus merganser
30.     Ruddy Duck    Oxyura jamaicensis
31.     Osprey     Pandion haliaetus
32.     Bald Eagle     Haliaeetus leucocephalus
33.     Hen Harrier     Circus cyaneus
34.     Sharp-shinned Hawk     Accipter striatus
35.     Cooper's Hawk     Accipter cooperii
36.     Broad-winged Hawk    Buteo platypterus
37.     Swainson's Hawk    Buteo swainsonii
38.     Red-tailed Hawk    Buteo jamiacensis
39.     Ferruginous Hawk    Buteo regalis
40.     American Kestrel    Falco sparverius
41.     Peregrine Falcon     Falco peregrinus
42.     Sharp-tailed Grouse    Tympanachus phasianellus
43.     Grey Partridge     Perdix perdix
44.     Common Pheasant     Phasianus colchicus
45.     American Coot     Fulica americana
46.     American Avocet     Recurvirostra americana
47.     American Golden Plover     Pluvialis dominica
48.     Grey Plover    Pluvialis squatarola
49.     Semipalmated Plover     Charadrius semipalmatus
50.     Killdeer Plover     Charadrius vociferus
51.     Piping Plover     Charadrius melodus
52.     Red Knot     Calidris canutus
53.     Semipalmated Sandpiper    Calidris pusilla
54.     Least Sandpiper     Calidris minutilla
55.     White-rumped Sandpiper    Calidris fuscicollis
56.     Baird's Sandpiper     Calidris bairdii
57.     Pectoral Sandpiper     Calidris melanotos
58.     Dunlin     Calidris alpina
59.     Marbled Godwit    Limosa fedoa
60.     Long-billed Curlew     Numenius americanus
61.     Long-billed Dowitcher     Limnodromus scolopaceus
62.     Short-billed Dowitcher     Limnodromus griseus
63.     Greater Yellowlegs    Tringa melanoleuca
64.     Lesser Yellowlegs      Tringa flavipes
65.     Solitary Sandpiper    Tringa solitaria
66.    Spotted Sandpiper    Actitis macularia
67.     Ruddy Turnstone     Arenaria interpres
68.     Wilson's Phalarope     trocolor
69.     Ring-billed Gull    Larus delawarensis
70.     Herring Gull     Larus argentatus
71.     California Gull    Larus californicus
72.     Franklin's Gull    Larus pipixcan
73.     Bonaparte's Gull     Larus philadelphia
74.     Caspian Tern    Sterna caspia
75.     Common Tern    Sterna hirundo
76.     Forster's Tern     Sterna forsteri
77.     Black Tern    Chlidonias niger
78.     Feral Pigeon    Columba livia 
79.     American Mourning Dove    Zenaida macroura
80.     Chimney Swift    Chaetura pelagica
81.     Belted Kingfisher    Ceryle alcyon
82.     Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     Sphyrapicus varius
83.     Downy Woodpecker    Picoides pubescens
84.     Hairy Woodpecker     Picoides villosus
85.     Northern Flicker    Colaptes borealis
86.     Eastern Phoebe    Sayornis phoebe
87.     Eastern Kingbird    Tyrannus tyrannus
88.     Olive-sided Flycatcher     Nutallornis borealis
89.     Western Wood-pewee     Contopus sordidulus
90.     Yellow-bellied Flycatcher     Empidonax flaviventris
91.     Alder Flycatcher     Empidonax alnorum
92.     Hammond's Flycatcher    Empidonax hammondi
93.     Least Flycatcher     Empidonax minimus
94.     Horned Lark    Eremophila alpestris
95.     Tree Swallow     Tachycineta bicolor
96.     Violet-green Swallow     Tachycineta thalassina
97.     Purple Martin     Progne subis
98.     Northern Rough-winged Swallow      Steligidopteryx serripennis
99.     Sand Martin     Riparia riparia
100.  American Cliff Swallow    Hirundo pyrrhonota
101.  Barn Swallow    Hirundo rustica
102.  Buff-bellied Pipit    Anthus rubescens
103.  House Wren     Troglodytes aedon
104.  Grey Catbird     Dumetella carolinensis
105.  Brown Thrasher     Toxostoma rufum
106.  Mountain Bluebird     Sialis currucoides
107.  Veery     Catharus fuscescens
108.  Swainson's Thrush    Catharus ustulatus
109.  Hermit Thrush     Catharus guttatus
110.  American Robin    Turdus migratorius
111.  Ruby-crowned Kinglet     Regulus calendula
112.  Golden-crowned Kinglet     Regulus satrapa
113.  Black-capped Chickadee    Parus atricapillus
114.  Mountain Chickadee    Parus gambeli
115.  White-breasted Nuthatch     Sitta carolinensis
116.  Loggerhead Shrike     Lanius ludovicianus
117.  Common Starling    Sturnus vulgaris
118.  Blue Jay    Cyanocitta cristata
119.  Grey Jay    Perisoreus canadensis
120.  Black-billed Magpie    Pica pica
121.  Clark's Nutcracker     Nucifraga columbiana
122.  American Crow     Corvus brachyrhynchos
123.  Northern Raven    Corvus corax
124.  House Sparrow      Passer domesticus 
125.  American Goldfinch     Carduelis tristis
126.  Purple Finch    Carpodacus purpureus
127.  Common Crossbill     Loxia curvirostra
128.  Evening Grosbeak     Hesperornis vespertinus
129.  McCown's Longspur     Calcarius mccownii
130.  Chestnut-collared Longspur    Calcarius ornatus
131.  Fox Sparrow    Passerella iliaca
132.  Song Sparrow     Melospiza melodia
133.  Lincoln's Sparrow   Melospiza lincolnii
134.  Swamp Sparrow   Melospiza georgiana
135.  Harris's Sparrow    Zonotrichia querula
136.  White-crowned Sparrow     Zonotrichia leucophrys
137.  White-throated Sparrow     Zonotrichia albicollis
138.  Dark-eyed Junco    Junco hyemalis
139.  Savannah Sparrow    Passerculus sandvicensis
140.  LeConte's Sparrow    Ammodramus leconteii
141.  Grasshopper Sparrow    Ammodramus savannarum
142.  American Tree Sparrow    Spizella arborea
143.  Chipping Sparrow     Spizella passerina
144.  Clay-coloured Sparrow    Spizella pallida
145.  Vesper Sparrow    Pooecetes gramineus
146.  Lark Sparrow    Chondestes grammacus
147.  Rose-breasted Grosbeak    Pheucticis ludovicianus
148.  Black & White Warbler    Mniolta varia
149.  Tennessee Warbler    Vermivora peregrina
150.  Orange-crowned Warbler    Vermivora celata
151.  Nashville Warbler    Vermivora ruficapilla
152.  Yellow Warbler    Dendroica petechia
153.  Chestnut-sided Warbler    Dendroica pensylvanica
154.  Townsend's Warbler    Dendroica townsendi
155.  Cape May Warbler    Dendroica tigrina
156.  Blackburnian Warbler    Dendroica fusca
157.  Magnolia Warbler    Dendroica magnolia
158.  Yellow-rumped Warbler    Dendroica coronata
159.  Palm Warbler    Dendroica palmarum
160.  Blackpoll Warbler    Dendroica striata
161.  Bay-breasted Warbler    Dendroica castanea
162.  American Redstart    Setophaga ruticilla
163.  Ovenbird     Seiurus aurocapillus
164.  Northern Waterthrush    Seiurus noveboracensis
165.  Common Yellowthroat    Geothlypis trichas
166.  Connecticut Warbler    Oporornis agilis
167.  Mourning Warbler    Oporornis philadelphia
168.  MacGillivray's Warbler    Oporornis tolmei
169.  Wilson's Warbler    Wilsonia pusilla
170.  Canada Warbler    Wilsonia canadensis
171.  Solitary Vireo    Vireo solitarius
172.  Philadelphia Vireo    Vireo philadephicus
173.  Warbling Vireo    Vireo gilvus
174.  Baltimore Oriole    Icterus galbula
175.  Yellow-headed Blackbird    Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
176.  Red-winged Blackbird    Agelaius phoeniceus
177.  Western Meadowlark    Sturnella neglecta
178.  Common Grackle    Quiscalus quiscalus
179.  Rusty Blackbird    Euphagus carolinensis
180.  Brewer's Blackbird    Euphagus cyanocephalus
181.  Brown-headed Cowbird    Molothus ater
182.  Bobolink    Dolichonyx oryzivorus

David Kelly

Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?