Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Taste of the Manitoba Prairie

As has become a bit of a tradition, I treated my hard-working atlas summer crew to a 2-day birding trip of Manitoba’s southwest corner and Whitewater Lake after they had finished their point counting assignment. This year’s results were spectacular with the grassland birds putting on quite a show.

Two of the best moments were offered up by two extraordinarily cooperative Sprague’s Pipits. Mere minutes after I explained how difficult Sprague’s Pipit were to see, we got crippling views of one walking on the ground, shown here.

As if that wasn’t enough, I later spotted another Sprague's Pipit sitting on a fence pole that provided prolonged close views and allowed me an unprecedented photo op – here are three different photos of the same bird that show the elongated hallux (rear toe) and also the bird’s prairie habitat

Another grassland species that is very difficult to see in Manitoba is Baird’s Sparrow, so I was equally amazed when one tee-ed up on a small patch of antelope bush right in front of us and sat still while I focused the scope. Better yet, we later saw this bird briefly with fledged young. The photo below shows this cooperative sparrow in their typical habitat – grassland with scattered bushes...

Alongside the Baird’s Sparrow, we found fledged young of Grasshopper Sparrow and got to study the plumage closely – note the detail in this photo of a youngster on a wire…

This year’s Dickcissel invasion did not disappoint either – here is one of the many singing males we found in cropland!

We also enjoyed great looks at the specialties this area has to offer such as Ferruginous Hawk, Burrowing Owl, Loggerhead Shrike with young, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Say’s Phoebe, the Willow Flycatcher photographed below and others.

A truly unexpected treat was knock-your-socks off views of the male Lazuli Bunting southeast of Lyleton that has been on the same territory three years in a row. A female Passerina bunting was also seen and did not appear streaky on the breast; however, views were insufficient to determine species… I need to make a return visit if I can! Here are two photos, first showing the habitat and then a closer look at his magnificent colours…

In the Whitewater Lake area, we enjoyed a great showing of White-faced Ibis (first photo below); Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets (second photo below); Black-crowned Night-Heron (third photo below), California Gull and others, plus a good selection of migrating shorebirds including American Golden Plover, Semipalmated Plover Hudsonian Godwit, Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and all four peeps.


A truly exceptional day and a half in the prairies – thanx team!! 

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