Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Importance of Important Bird Areas

On Sunday 24th July I photographed this Pectoral Sandpiper in a mixed species flock at Delta Marsh Important Bird Area (four photos below).  It turns out this bird, an adult male, was fitted with a satellite transmitter by the Max Planck Institutes (https://mpg.de/institutes) on 28th May 2016 in Barrow, Alaska. On his fall migration, this male Pectoral Sandpiper went from Barrow to the southwestern area of Hudson Bay, where there are no less than nine Important Bird Areas, and from there flew to Delta Marsh IBA (MB001).  He arrived at Delta Marsh on the 23rd July or possibly the 22nd (the satellite tags have a 48-hour on and off schedule so it could have arrived one day before transmitting a signal from Delta) and stayed until the 26th July. He took flight in the early morning of 26th July and went to the Whitewater Lake Important Bird Area (MB015).

As we discover more and more about the incredible journeys of shorebirds, what I find most amazing about this particular story is the way this bird has used a series of Important Bird Areas during his southbound migration. The Important Bird Area program is designed to identify and work towards securing a network of key sites along migratory flyways (as well as other important habitats). This network recognises the importance of hemispheric connections and international collaboration for the conservation of migratory species. This movement of this Pectoral Sandpiper demonstrates nicely how this network of sites works for an individual. From the Hudson Bay IBAs to Delta Marsh and onto Whitewater Lake, this individual is connecting the dots in a very real way!(see http://ibacanada.org/ to find details and a map of these IBAs)

As this bird moves south to South America, perhaps even as far south as Argentina, it is quite likely that other IBAs along the way will provide important stopover and refueling places. Without all of those, we would be unable to enjoy their magnificence up here in the north.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mixed-winged Warblers?

OK, so you probably recognise the Golden-winged Warbler on the right and the Blue-winged Warbler on the left of the photo collage below. You may even recognise the bird in the middle as a hybrid:
A new article in Living Bird magazine discusses a paper in press on the small difference in the genomes of Golden-winged Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler. There are some interesting findings in dominant versus recessive plumage patterns but also the suggestion that perhaps these two should be considered a single species. I am waiting for the article to be published before I come to any conclusion on whether the claims made in the article are warranted but it certainly fodder for thought. Unfortunately this article does not mention the paper's co-authors, which is upsetting, but here is a scan to give you a sense of it:

Monday, July 11, 2016


While scouting for our Important Bird Area (IBA) blitz in the Southwest Mixed-Grass Prairie Important Bird IBA, Tim Poole and I were driving east along road 12N, when I heard a Dickcissel. After breaking a little hard, we backed up and had fantastic looks at a male singing on the power line. Later that evening two males were heard singing in the area. Since we have not had many Dickcissels in Manitoba since the last irruption in 2012 (although there were a few in 2013), and since this is the first report this year that I am aware of I decided to post this photo.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Three Manitoba birds added to Species At Risk Act

There is a short piece in CBC online today regarding recent additions to the Species At Risk Act (SARA). It also acknowledges our good work in projects such as the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas (www.birdatlas.mb.ca), the Important Bird Area program (https://importantbirdareasmb.ca/) and even some shorebirds surveys we did in the north. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the huge role that the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS: https://ec.gc.ca/reom-mbs/default.asp?lang=En&n=416B57CA-1) plays in determining trend, a critical piece of any designation, and the significant role of Manitoba birders in the BBS. Here is a link to a CBC article on these recent additions:


The photo shows a Horned Grebe. I took this shot recently in Churchill, Manitoba. Thank you to everyone involved in all these important programs!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A family of Eastern Screech-Owls

I put together a small album of photos of a family of Eastern Screech-Owls (Megascops asio). I monitored several nests this season (as best I could with other commitments) but these photos are all of one family unit that had five fledglings. The sequence is as follows: two photos showing the adults on day roosts; two photos showing the adults hunting caterpillars; a photos of all five young huddled together during a storm, then a photo of the remaining four after the first left, then a photo showing three; three photos showing an adult feeding the young (a beetle and caterpillars); a photo showing a young one dispensing with the caterpillar just delivered by a parent; four photos of youngsters out on their own; and finally a shot of one of the parents flying off after feeding. Enjoy!




Monday, May 30, 2016

The Fine Art of Subtlety: Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)

With special thanks to Jody Allair of Bird Studies Canada, I recently enjoyed observing a pair of Acadian Flycatchers on their breeding grounds in the dark Carolinian Forest of southern Ontario. The bird in the first photo is perched in a hemlock, a feature of their habitat selection, at least in this portion of their range. You might be excused for thinking they look just like any other empid (Empidonax flycatcher) but they are quite distinct with their long bill with very pale lower mandible and even partly pale sides to upper mandible; long primary projection; rich green mantle; yellowish tones in eye-ring, underparts and wingbars (less so than Yellow-bellied); “gentle” facial expression (created by the pale lores and malar); and of course their famous “pizza” two-note song. Watching this bird throw their head back and sing was certainly one of the avian highlights of my recent visit to Ontario for various meetings.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Oak Hammock Summer Bird Census

Oak Hammock Marsh is looking for volunteers for the summer bird census, See:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"The Messenger" Trailer

For those interested in joining me on Friday May 13th for the screening of The Messenger at Bandwidth Theatre, here is a trailer:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

International Migratory Bird Day + “The Messenger”

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated here every year on the second Saturday in May and this year there are some great activities to help you celebrate on May 14th!

Join us at Oak Hammock Marsh on May 14th for any of the following:

* 8 - 10 a.m.:       Birding Marshwalk with Christian Artuso and Tim Poole - Birds recorded on the walk will be entered in eBird

* 10 - 11 a.m:      IBA Program and Data Entry – Learn how to record birds in eBird with Tim Poole and Christian Artuso

* 11 a.m. - noon: Manitoba’s Returning Songbirds presentation by Christian Artuso

* 1 - 2 p.m.:         Birding by Ear Workshop with Paula Grieef - Learn some basics for identifying bird songs in this beginner workshop.  $5 plus admission

* 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.:  Buying Binoculars presentation - What to look for when buying binoculars with Paula Grieef and Ricky Ryan from Zeiss. Binoculars will be available for testing. Enter to win a pair of Zeiss binoculars.

During the week of International Migratory Bird Day, the superb documentary “The Messenger”, which chronicles the struggles of songbirds in the face of habitat destruction, climate change and industrialization, will be featured at Winnipeg’s Bandwidth Theatre on May 13 – 19, playing at 7 p.m. daily with 5 p.m. matinĂ©es on Saturday and Sunday. On the “auspicious” Friday May 13 I will be there to introduce the screening.

I will also be leading a birding workshop at St Leon on April 30th for any of you in that neck of the woods who might be interested. On the evening of May 12th I will be doing a condensed Birding By Ear Workshop at FortWhyte Alive.

Good birding all; May is just around the corner and such a wondrous time in Manitoba!

Here are two photos of a male Baltimore Oriole I photographed recently in Costa Rica — one of many birds getting ready for the northward trek to brighten our lives up here in the temperate zones!
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