• The readily-accessible Arctic tundra with its splendid wildlife at Churchill
• The diverse and productive prairies, wetlands and forests of southern Manitoba, including the superb Riding Mountain National Park
Willow Ptarmigan and Smith’s Longspurs are on open tundra, Pacific Loons and Common Eiders in ponds, shorebirds along shorelines, impressive numbers of waterbirds at Whitewater Lake including ibis and egrets, Nelson’s Sparrows and Sedge Wrens in the marshes, Gray-cheeked Thrushes and Harris’s Sparrows in the stunted coniferous forests, Baird’s Sparrows and Sprague’s Pipits on prairies, and Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers and Great Gray Owls in Boreal Forest.
Our Churchill and Southern Manitoba birding tour occurs when breeding will be well underway, with nesting Willow Ptarmigan, Hudsonian Godwit, American Golden-Plover, Stilt Sandpiper and many others on the tundra and in the boreal forest. Our tour also coincides with the migration of those species which breed in the High Arctic, such as Long-tailed Jaeger and Sabine’s Gull.
Coupled with the bird-rich prairies and the amazing mixed forests of Riding Mountain, and several big mammals such as Moose and Black Bear, this is a very diverse and rewarding tour!
Day 1: Arrival
Day 2: St. Ambroise Park and the Douglas Marsh
Day 3: Brandon Hills and Whitewater Lake
Day 4: Prairie Birding
Day 5: Whitewater Lake and transfer to Riding Mountain NP
Days 6 - 7: Riding Mountain National Park
Day 8: Transfer to Winnipeg
Days 9 - 11: Churchill
Day 12: Return to Winnipeg
Day 13: Departure
Day 1: Arrival
Our Churchill and Southern Manitoba birding tour begins with arrival in Winnipeg and check-in at our hotel. We meet for dinner to discuss the adventure ahead and perhaps go birding for a couple of hours before retiring. Night in Winnipeg.
Early in the morning we head west from Winnipeg, birding on route to St. Ambroise Provincial Park on the south shore of Lake Manitoba. This is a very rich area for birds, and we have a chance of finding a large number of species, including Western, Red-necked and Eared Grebes, rails, American Avocet, Willet, Upland Sandpiper, Forster’s Tern, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Le Conte’s and Nelson’s Sparrows. Astonishingly high numbers of local breeding species such as Eastern and Western Kingbirds, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Gray Catbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Least Flycatcher occur along the ridges. Scarcer species include Orchard Oriole and Red-headed Woodpecker.
We then head west to our location for the night, at Brandon. After settling into our accommodations, after supper, we head for the Douglas Marsh, famous in the past for its Yellow Rails. Recently, however, the marsh has become less reliable for this enigmatic bird. We will try to induce one to sing, although there will be other species here to note, such as Soras, Wilson’s Snipe, Nelson’s Sparrows and Sedge Wrens. If the weather is not conducive for listening for Yellow Rails (such as windy conditions) then we will visit other locations in the area. Night in Brandon.
Today we drive south through the Brandon Hills, watching for Gray Partridge and Mountain Bluebirds, and stopping at wildlife management areas to look for Sharp-tailed Grouse, Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Vireo and Indigo Bunting. At the Souris River Bend we look for Lark Sparrow, Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-throated Vireo and towhees – mainly Eastern but always the possibility of Spotted. We then visit Whitewater Lake and other shallow lakes in the area, looking for migrant shorebirds and waterbirds not yet located. These lakes can teem with birds - grebes, shorebirds, waterfowl, pelicans, terns, herons, with a patrolling Peregrine or two. White-faced Ibis are here, as are Great and Cattle Egrets, and possibly the world’s largest Franklin’s Gull colony. Night in Melita
Day 4: Prairie Birding
Today we head for the southwest corner of the province, in search of mixed-grass prairie specialties such as Sprague’s Pipit, Vesper, Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows, and Chestnut-collared Longspur. Swainson’s Hawks are widespread here, and Ferruginous Hawk is regularly seen. We watch the overhead powerlines for Loggerhead Shrikes and we will catch up with species requiring a second look, perhaps Sharp-tailed Grouse, Upland Sandpiper and Marbled Godwit. Time permitting, we may head for the Lauder Sandhills, an area of sand dunes and rolling forested hills. At day’s end we will have seen an impressive, wide and diverse array of species. Night in Melita.
Day 5: Whitewater Lake and transfer to Riding Mountain NP
We plan on revisiting Whitewater Lake, always worth a second exploration, and then drive north through the Oak Lake/Plum Marshes region and the Minnedosa Pothole country. This area consists of native rolling mixed-grass prairie dotted with shallow and very productive ponds and small lakes (“potholes”) and the area is home to at least 12 species of nesting waterfowl. Prairie shorebirds include American Avocet and Wilson’s Phalarope, and the potholes should provide good opportunities to view grebes, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and many other wetland species. We then head for Riding Mountain National Park, arriving in the late afternoon. Night at Riding Mountain National Park.
On these two days we bird Riding Mountain National Park. This superb National Park rises out of the prairie to an elevation of 450 meters, and the habitats here are rich and varied, with over 260 species of birds recorded. Warblers abound, and we will look for many of so-called eastern species including Blackburnian, Mourning, Cape May, Magnolia, Black-throated Green and Golden-winged. Western species include Western Wood-Pewee, and boreal species include Spruce Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Gray Jay and both Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers. As always, we will be on the lookout for mammals such as Black Bear, Elk and Moose. Nights in Riding Mountain National Park.
Today we spend the morning searching for species not yet found, perhaps Evening Grosbeak or Olive-sided Flycatcher, and then we leave the park and head south to Neepawa, where Wild Turkeys are a possibility and where a huge Purple Martin colony occurs. Time permitting, we make a brief stop at the Portage la Prairie dump, looking for California Gull. Night in Winnipeg.
On Day 9, we fly to Churchill, and settle into our accommodations before heading out in search of specialties. Our days will be organized around weather conditions and reports of target birds. On one or more days we explore the Cape Merry area, where the Churchill River flows out into Hudson Bay. Depending upon ice conditions in the river, groups of Pacific and Red-throated Loons and waterfowl should be present including such possible delights as Harlequin Duck. Jaegers hitch rides on ice-flows, and among the Parasitics may be a superb adult Long-tailed Jaeger.
Along with the frenetic bird activity, we may have the opportunity to watch Beluga Whales riding the rising tide. Shorebirds destined for the high arctic mix with newly arrived locally breeding species. At high water we check the Granary Ponds for roosting shorebirds, Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs. We may revisit this spectacular area, looking for Sabine’s Gull among the throngs of birds, and maybe an Arctic Hare among the ancient lichen encrusted rocks of the Cape.
We visit Akudlik Marsh, where Ross’s Gulls were first found nesting, and then head east along the road passing through both wet and dry tundra. Nesting shorebirds will be in full cry. Stilt Sandpipers hee-haw overhead, Whimbrels, Short-billed Dowitchers and Lesser Yellowlegs will be in display flights, while other species such as Hudsonian Godwit and Dunlin abound. The Churchill dump may host an unusual gull or two, and Sandhill Cranes nest close by.
We visit the Goose Creek Road area alongside the Churchill River. In a variety of habitats, we search for Three-toed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Northern Shrike, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Fox and Harris’s Sparrows, and some of the commoner wood warblers such as Tennessee, Blackpoll and Orange-crowned. Along the river itself shorebirds can be numerous, and Little Gulls sometimes occur at the end of the road.
In the Twin Lakes area, we search for boreal and tundra species such as Rough-legged Hawk, Spruce Grouse, Smith’s Longspur and White-winged Crossbill. As usual, shorebirds are abundant, including breeding American Golden-Plovers. Willow Ptarmigan will be seen alongside the gravel road. There is always the chance of Northern Hawk Owl, which has nested in this area. Also we take a look around Town, providing an opportunity to purchase souvenirs and to visit the Eskimo Museum. Nights in Churchill.
We spend our last day in the north searching for species which we may have missed and then catch our return flight in the evening to Winnipeg. Night in Winnipeg.
Our Churchill and Southern Manitoba birding tour ends today, you can transfer to the airport for flights home anytime today.
• Smith's Longspur
• Willow Ptarmigan
• Hudsonian Godwit
• Sprague’s Pipit
• Harris's Sparrow
• Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers
• Great Gray Owl
• Black bear
• Beluga Whale
2016 Churchill & Southern Manitoba species list (pdf)2014 Churchill & Southern Manitoba species list (pdf)2012 Churchill & Southern Manitoba species list (pdf) 2008 Churchill & Southern Manitoba species list (pdf) 2002 Churchill & Southern Manitoba species list (pdf)
On our Churchill and Southern Manitoba birding tour, early mornings will be the usual start to the day in southern Manitoba to catch early morning activities, whilst at Churchill we start later as dawn is not that long after midnight! Because Churchill has a relatively small road network, breakfasts will be slotted in around bird activity and weather patterns. We usually are no more than an hour's drive from our Hotel. Polar Bears are unlikely to be encountered at Churchill during June, although we will always be on the look-out for one! Driving will be limited to short and moderate stretches, with a couple of long drives to reach southwestern Manitoba. Lunch will be variable in time and location depending on the day and the level of birding. Southern Manitoba is likely to be warm or even hot, with a possibility of rain. Churchill is much less predictable; weather can vary from a sweltering 25 degrees Celsius to around freezing during the day, with frequent night-time frosts. It may snow, and participants should layer their clothing as conditions can change quickly whilst we are in the field. Mosquitoes are equally unpredictable in the first half of June. We may encounter just a few, or rather a lot: there should not be the hordes which occur later in June and July. Participants should include bug repellant and perhaps a head-net in their luggage, just in case. Waterproof footwear is recommended, while an umbrella can come in useful.
• All accommodation• Breakfasts and lunches• Ground transportation• Guides (4 - 8 participants with one guide, 9 - 12 with two)• All park, conservation and entrance fees• Gratuities
Not Included:• Flights between Winnipeg-Churchill (estimated $800 CAD)• Evening meals• Travel Insurance• Items of a personal nature
“I enjoyed the tour very much. I didn’t get all the birds I hoped for – but when does that ever happen?! We had some really memorable experiences. We also had lots of fun – it was a great group!” - 2016 Churchill and S. Manitoba participant
"Met and/or exceeded my expectations. Introduced to a varied countryside all within a very small area; really some different species for each area. Meeting people who actually reside in the area was a plus." (June 2013)
"Best aspects of the tour was seeing Churchill and of course the birds we saw." (June 2013)
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