SOUTHERN MANITOBA & CHURCHILL
In 2011, Phil visited Canada. He toured the taiga belt & prairies of southern Manitoba in search or the many brightly coloured American wood warblers and sparrows that were singing in preparation for the short breeding season. Loons wailed from every lake, Sharp-tailed Grouse danced on the prairies and flocks of migrating wildfowl homed in on the many ponds and marshes. In addition, he wanted to look at the prospects of finding large mammals like bears and bison, as well as some smaller ones like beaver, chipmunk and muskrat - he found them all!
Heading north towards the end of the tree-line, he reached the town Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay. Although famous for the polar bears that walk into town, he turned his attention to the birds and couldn't have been more pleased. Thousands of Lapland Buntings attracted harriers and falcons, the displaying shorebirds were watchful for Bald Eagles and the Spruce Grouse only broke cover when they were confident that the Golden Eagles were gone. Feeders attracted grosbeaks, finches and sparrows and melting ice in the Hudson River brought Sabine's and Bonaparte's Gulls inland to join the large flocks of Sandhill Cranes and Ross's Geese.
The whole place was amazing and have a tour planned for 2013. As a taster of the incredible views we had, the photos on this page shows just a few of creatures Phil saw.
Some Bison at Riding National Park allowed a close approach.
This was one particularly big bull Bison that didn't look like he wanted his picture taking!
This female Bison had a young calf with it as well as a following flock of cowbirds
The Golden-winged Warbler has a special place in the heart of British Birders. In 1989 more than 4000 birders went to see one at Larkfield, Kent during one weekend! - It remains the biggest 'twitch' in British birding history.
the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is quite common in the vast forests of Southern Manitoba and we saw at least 4 during our time there.
American Robins are common garden birds in Southern Manitoba
The Canada Jay is affectionately known as Whisky Jack
part of the Riding National Park Bison herd. These are cows and calves
Black Bear is a must-see animal here and mothers with three cubs are not uncommon. They are quite wary of people and so approaching one requires a little cunning.
the massive Great Horned Owls here are pale and frosty-looking, typical of northern races
the Great Northern Diver is common on many lakes. Its mournful call provides a 'Last of the Mohicans' feel to any birding trip here.
The bird below was nesting beside a busy marina and despite there being heavy drizzle on the morning we found it, the bird looked wonderful with droplets of water on its head.
cloudy days are excellent for bringing Cliff Swallows lower down to provide excellent views
Moose are very common, but to see a calf as young as this takes persistence and a bit of luck
Muskrats can be found in many swamps and ditches
this drake Blue-winged Teal swam unconcerned as our canoe glided slowly by
American Barn Swallows differ from European birds in having a larger orange 'bib' bordered by a restricted or broken dark blue band
from the air, the Canadian Arctic around Hudson Bay is a vast wilderness that must be packed with wonderful birds. So Churchill provides comfortable access to it.
Pine Grosbeaks are difficult to see in the forests, but private feeders in gardens allow intimate contact with them
the fairy-tale forests are crammed with moss-laden trees, as well as some excellent birds
One of thousands of White-crowned Sparrows seen on this trip.
This species hit the headlines in 2008 when one turned up at Cley in Norfolk. The bird stayed for weeks allowing hundreds of birdwatchers to enjoy it, while raising thousands of pounds for the local church. A picture of that sparrow is immortalised in one corner of a new stained-glass window in recognition of the birds contribution to the restoration fund.
In Churchill, they are as numerous as House Sparrows once were in the UK !
Shorelarks (Horned Lark) were common along the dusty roads near town. This one chose to have a dust bath right by our car
Willow Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan) are easy to spot as the snow melts. As they retain some of the white winter plumage, they become easy prey for Golden Eagles.
This Hudsonian Godwit was one of two ringed birds that Phil was able get pictures of. Being able to read the letters AX on the left leg allowed him to forward information to researchers at Churchill who sent details of its movements.
A brief synopsis of the average migration of a Churchill godwit would include: -
Three weeks staging on the western coast of James Bay before a non-stop flight from James Bay to Buenos Aires, Argentina; a flight of 10,000 km and 7 days.
A month staging along the northern Argentine coast before moving south to Tierra del Fuego where they spend five months wintering.
A return non-stop flight northward to southern Texas in early May (another flight of ~10,000 km) before hopscotching through the Great Plains with an average of 3 stops along the way.
And, finally a return to Churchill in late May.....phew
Foxes are not afraid of man here. This vixen brought lemmings for three hungry cubs
no not a Norwegian Blue Parrot, you are thinking of a Monty Python sketch!! - this is a Pacific Diver
male Pine Grosbeak
Purple Martin houses are quite common in Southern Manitoba's towns
This was another good find for Phil. Grey Phalarope is a rare bird alert species in Southern Manitoba!!!
Beaver dams provide excellent habitat for a variety of waterfowl and a great place for Bald Eagles & ospreys to hunt
both Sora and Virginia Rails breed here
Tree Swallows like man-made homes to nest in
despite its tropical appearance, the North American White Pelican is common in Winnipeg
This adult Glaucous-winged Gull (left bird) was a fabulous find. As Phil was on his way back to the hotel, he decided to check out some large gulls hoping for a Thayer's Gull. To his surprise, he saw the bird above. He didn't realise how rare it was here as they are common in Alaska and he had even seen one in the UK!!! Some people were sceptical about the record, but Rhonda Reid, a local birder was with him and together with a set of superb pictures there was no doubt that the bird had been there - albeit briefly.
This reply came back from the local birders:- The Glaucous-winged Gull was a great find Phil. The only documented Glaucous –winged Gulls in the province were collected at Churchill: a second-year female on June 1, 1964 and an adult female on June 24th, 1965.
This means that this is the first sight record for Churchill & the second for Manitoba.
Slavonian Grebes are present in small numbers at Churchill
the whole state just oozes wilderness !
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