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A Report from

Southern Manitoba 13 August - 1 September 1997,

David Kelly

This report covers my second trip to Canada to visit my mother-in-law in Winnipeg.  My wife, Lillian, and I flew from Glasgow by Air Canada to Toronto and then onto Winnipeg.  The whole of this flight was in daylight and the sky was cloudless as we flew over Greenland, giving the other passengers and us unforgettable views of the ice floes, glaciers and ice caps.  The flight from Toronto to Winnipeg also allowed me to see the awesome sight of the Great Lakes from the air.

Again we were relying on the The Rough Guide to Canada, The Bird Finding Guide to Canada, The National Geographic Guide to North American Birds and The Birder's Guide to South Eastern Manitoba.  While in Winnipeg I managed to get hold of The Birder's Guide to South Western Manitoba.  This time we decided we would concentrate on Manitoba whereas previously we had endured a long drive to the Rockies.

In the following report * denotes a lifer.

13 August 1997

We arrived in Winnipeg this afternoon and I had a few hours of daylight to see what was on the lake at the bottom of my mother-in-law's (Linda) garden.  A Greater Yellowlegs had taken up a feeding territory and there were Pied-billed Grebe, Mallard and Canada Geese on the water while Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows fed above the lake.

14 August 1997

We went shopping this morning and I bought a new tripod.  In the afternoon we went to Kildonan Park to bird along the Red River and be devoured by Mosquitoes.  The migration of warblers had already started and the trees by the river had Black and White Warbler, Tennessee Warbler and Nashville Warbler as well as Eastern Phoebe, Least Flycatcher and Song Sparrow.  Residents seen included Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and Black-capped Chickadee.  The Wood Ducks had well grown young, as did the Mallards.

15 August 1997

It poured with rain all day and we went to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature which was enjoyable.

16 August 1997

Shopping again.  This evening I had a brief look at my first ever hummingbird while around the lake there were 2 Greater Yellowlegs, a Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Killdeers and 2 Baird's Sandpipers.

17 August 1997

Linda and her husband, Ted, own some land in the "deep south" of Manitoba near the town of St Malo and we all went down there for a barbecue.  The land straddles the Rat River and is abandoned farmland with second growth White Poplar as well as older trees.  Here I saw my first Cedar Waxwings*, Yellow-throated Vireo*, Red-eyed Vireo* and Eastern Wood Pewee*.  Other birds included American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker and American Robin.  Insects were abundant and the DEET was being liberally applied.  There were, however, some nice butterflies and I could even identify two of them the Monarch and the Camberwell Beauty (knows as Mourning Cloak in North America).  There were also lots of grasshoppers, including one that had wings like a Camberwell Beauty's.

19 August 1997

We had timed our visit with a major Canadian sports event in Brandon, Manitoba, and as a result hire cars were extremely difficult to obtain.  Eventually, after a day of looking on 18 August, we got a Suzuki Swift at a reasonable rate and we hit the road, heading to Riding Mountain National Park.  On the way, just outside Winnipeg near a town called Headingley five Sandhill Cranes* flew across the road and landed in fields just out of sight of the highway.

When we arrived at Riding Mountain we booked into the Mooswa Resort in Wasagaming where we had stayed in 1995.  We then left and drove to the Audy Lake Bison Enclosure but we only saw one Bison.  The area was relatively birdless apart from a single Cooper's Hawk.

20 August 1997

We spent all day in the National Park, starting by going east along PR19 through a huge area of forest that was burnt in the early 1980s.  Again we saw almost no birds apart from Least Flycatchers but we did see a covey of Ruffed Grouse* on the "Fire Trail".  We drove almost as far as the Park Gate and on the way a Black Bear cub crossed the road in front of us then run along the verge before veering off into the forest.  We were certain that it's mother wouldn't be too far away so we decided not to get out of the car.  Another lifer was found at another trail which wound through wetland and forested peat bog, Boreal Chickadee*.

In the afternoon we walked around Lake Katherine in a fruitless attempt to locate Pileated Woodpecker before heading north for an equally fruitless attempt to see Moose at Moon Lake.  I scoped the lake and managed to pick up Great Northern Diver, grebes and some ducks.  We finsihed the day in the Bison Enclosure and, this time, we saw lots of Bison.  To cap it all as we drove back to Wasagaming we spotted a Black Bear feeding on berries beside the road.

21 August 1997

We stayed in Riding Mountain until lunchtime, going north to the Boreal Forest Island Trail first where I heard what I think was a Barred Owl calling.  Afterwards we drove back along PR19 to the Fire Trail. On PR19 a Great Horned Owl* flew across the road in front of us and I saw a Black-backed Woodpecker* when we walked the Fire Trail again.  As we left the park I saw a Turkey Vulture* hunting over a road side marsh.

Now we drove southwards back towards Brandon and then the Spruce Woods Provincial Park.  We wanted to visit the Manitoba "desert" and this afternoon we walked through a small part of it seeing Red-breasted Nuthatch* with the Chipping Sparrows and Black-capped Chickadees in the small patches of Spruce.  We had booked into the Glenboro Motel and before heading back we birded the Marsh's Lake Trail where we saw a great variety of birds including Sedge Wren*, Northern Parula*, Common Nighthawk* and Indigo Bunting* as well as Pied-billed Grebe, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart and Alder Flycatcher.

22 August 1997

This morning we walked a small part of the Epinette Creek trail complex.  The forest was quite but at one point i came across a mixed flock of Red-eyed Vireo, Dark-eyed Junco, Chipping Sparrow, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee and Hairy Woodpecker.  Other birds seen on the trail included a Solitary Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher and Red-tailed Hawk.  In the faternoon we walked through the Spirit Sands to the Devils' punch bowl seeing Rufous-sided Towhee* as well as my first Canadian Northern Goshawk, more Red-breasted Nuthatches and Turkey Vultures.  At the Devil's Punch-bowl there was a Hooded Merganser on the beaver ponds.

We finished the day on the Marsh's Lake Trail where we saw much the same birds as before with the addition of Belted Kingfisher and Northern Flicker

23 August 1997

We returned to Winnipeg today and decided that on the way we would visit St Ambroise on the Manitoba Delta but on the way from Portage La Prairie one of the tyres blew out.  We went to a nearby farm to ask for help and the farmer kindly replaced the tyre with the temporary spare. Around the farm were Common Snipe, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Kingbirds  and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  We had to return to Portage and get the tyre replaced at Canadian Tire before continuing back to Winnipeg.

24 August 1997

Linda and Ted's friend Dino took us to Patricia Beach.  He said it was a great place for birds, especially the lagoon, but when we got there we found our way blocked by a beack taken over by nudists.  Wandering through lots of naked people with binoculars and a telescope did not seem to be a good idea so we turned back.  The beaches were busy but we still saw Baird's Sandpiper, Caspian Tern and Osprey.  The car park was full of birds, especially Eastern Kingbirds but also Red-breasted Nuthatch, Least Flycatcher and various warblers.  On the way back we saw 7 Turkey Vultures circling above the swamp and Dino said he thought there was probably a dead Moose attracting them.

25 August 1997

We left Winnipeg to head east to the Whiteshell Provincial Park, booking into the Big Buffalo Resort at Falcon Lake.  We went for a walk in the evening but the only birds we saw were Turkey Vultures.

26 August 1997

Lillian wanted to see the Petroforms, animal and human shapes made by arranging rocks on the ground.  These are sacred sites to the indigenous people and are of historical importance too. The place where the Petroforms were also proved to be a good bird spot as we saw a mixed flock of Chipping Sparrow, Boreal and Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper*, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Blackburnian Warbler, Pine Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo.  In the afternoon we walked another trail along the Winnipeg River and were able to see Common Goldeneye, Goosander (Common Merganser), Osprey and Bald Eagle.

27 August 1997

More trails through the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield, rocky hills covered in coniferous forest with wet valleys filled with clear, blue lakes.  Around the resort I had seen Great Northern Diver, Pine Warbler*, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Common Nighthawk and Red-tailed Hawk.  On these last trails we did not see many more birds, coniferous forests never seem to have huge numbers of birds - especially in late August.  We did see a covey of Ruffed Grouse on the road but the flushed before we could photograph them and a flock of Two ed (White-winged) Crosbill * were a bonus.

28 August 1997

Back to Winnipeg

29 August 1997

Lillian and I went to Grand Beach where we had told there were Cardinals, a bird I particularly wanted to see as Western Canada is the only part of North America I've been to.  Naturally I did not see any and while I was looking for Cardinals Lillian was photographing a juvenile Western Kingbird.  The autumn migration was obvious here and there were birds everywhere in the tress and bushes.  On the water there were Double-crested Cormorants, American White Pelicans, Common Terns and Forster's Terns.  We walked one of the nature trails through a swamp that must have been the mosquito capital of Manitoba.  As we walked round Lillian nearly stood on a Sora which then ran off squealing into the swamp.

30 August 1997

Today I returned to Oak Hammock Marsh and was a little disappointed to find it with high water levels in the cells nearest the visitor centre.  There were plenty of  waterfowl but few shorebirds until we went to the North Cell where it was far better and here I used the scope to pick up shorebirds roosting on the mudy islands.  These included Yellowlegs, Dowitchers, Least Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper*, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Marbled Godwit, Grey Plover and Ruddy Turnstone.  We also saw our only Hen (Northern) Harrier of the trip.

31 August 1997

We went mushroom picking in the Sandilands Forest.  This huge forest seemed empty of birds and we were warned that there were dangerous wild animals in the forest.  We did manage to see a covey of Spruce Grouse* but everything else was heard only.

1 September 1997

A last day's birding before we returned the car.  We visited the Fort Whyte Nature Center in southern Winnipeg which was busy for the Labor Day holiday.  I did manage to find a Green Heron hiding in the dense vegetation and reported it to the visitor center.  We were quite close to it but it stayed in the shadows, frustrating any attempt to get a photograph.

I enjoyed this second trip to Canada and I picked up a lot of the birds I had missed last time round.  I did not keep a trip list but I don't think I saw as many species as in May-June 1995.  My lifers were Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Sandhill Crane, Sora, Stilt Sandpiper, Great Horned Owl, Common Nighthawk, Black-backed Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Boreal Chickadee, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Pine Siskin, Two Barred Crossbill, Indigo Bunting, Rufous-sided Towhee, Pine Warbler and Northern Parula.

I've still got a lot to see in Manitoba and will certainly be going back to visit Ted and Linda and hope to see some of the species I missed, especially Western Kingbird!


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