The cool fall weather in Manitoba is always accompanied by the sights and sounds of migrating birds. Manitoba is in the path of three migration corridors and over 390 migrating bird species have been identified in the province (Travel Manitoba, https://www.travelmanitoba.com/things-to-do/all-seasons/birding-wildlife/). Manitoba is a key resting spot for over 400,000 geese, ducks and other migrating birds flying south, with over 120,000 Canada geese in Winnipeg alone at the peak of migration (Manitoba Hot, http://manitobahot.com/2016/09/fall-migration/). Some of the best sites around the area to see migrating birds, and other animals are either in the city or a day trip away.
The bald eagle has one of the latest migrations and travels along the Red River and Pembina River when the lakes start to freeze at the end of October. There are wonderful viewing spots all throughout the province, including Riding Mountain National Park, Grand Beach, the Whiteshell, and Hecla Grindstone. Another amazing migratory bird of prey is the peregrine falcon, which has one of the longest migrations in North America, with some travelling 25,000 km in a year, round trip. If you are taking one last trip to the cabin, be sure to keep an eye out for these birds, as they head south.
Big Grass Marsh in Gladstone is an important staging area for waterfowl in North America, such as Mallards, Snow Geese, and, of course, Canada Geese. There are 16 species of ducks found there. During fall migration, the number of Mallard Ducks there exceeds 10,000 and as many as 6,500 Sandhill Cranes have been recorded in the area (Important Bird Areas Canada, https://www.ibacanada.ca/site.jsp?siteID=MB033). Big Grass Marsh is one of the most important wetlands in all of Canada and is an essential habitat for many species.
Another important marsh closer to the city is Oak Hammock Marsh. In fall migration, there are 300 species of birds that will stop here during migration, and throughout the year, including warblers, sparrows, shorebirds, and birds of prey. Fall viewing of migrating birds is at its peak in the last week of September and the first weeks of October, when the number of migrating waterfowl is at its peak of hundreds of thousands of birds (Manitoba Hot, http://manitobahot.com/2016/09/fall-migration/). Fort Whyte Alive is a major staging area for migrating Canada geese and Whitewater Lake in Southwestern Manitoba is also a stopping point for other waterfowl and shore birds. Thousands of tundra swans, as well as the hundreds of thousands of snow geese, Canada geese, and other ducks, stop there in late fall,
These local habitats are crucial resting points for migrating birds that need to be preserved and protected. Awareness and engagement are ways to show support for protecting our natural habitats. Take advantage of the mild temperatures of early fall and visit one of these special places to enjoy the variety of wildlife at this time of year.
*Article originally printed in Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre newsletter. For more information or to become a member and subscribe to the newsletter, please visit the PWRC website: http://pwildlife.ca/.