Please note that the following is our intended itinerary, but we may adjust it from year to year to optimize our opportunities for owl sightings on our Manitoba Owls birding tour.
Day 1 - Arrival in Winnipeg
Participants will be arriving in Winnipeg throughout the day. For those that arrive early enough, there are opportunities for birding on your own in and around Winnipeg. Alternatively, there are some great museums worth visiting in the city (Manitoba Mueseum, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Museum of Human Rights). We meet in the evening at our hotel for dinner and to discuss the plan for the days ahead based on the weather and the latest sightings. Night in Winnipeg near the airport.
Day 2 - Winnipeg/ Lac du Bonnet / Riding Mountain National Park
After breakfast we leave the hotel. Where we go depends upon where the most reliable locations are for finding our target owls. We usually first head north and southwest of the city to look for Snowy Owls. En route we keep our eyes peeled for Gray Partridges and Snow Buntings. If the weather is right for diurnal raptor migration, we may next spend some time at a hawk watch site just south of Winnipeg, where we should see Bald Eagles and other raptors, including possibly Northern Goshawk.
Next we head into the city where we hope to locate an Eastern Screech-Owl at a roost. Late in the afternoon we continue our search for owls and other boreal specialties and may be fortunate in finding Sharp-tailed Grouse en route. After dinner, if the weather is calm, we drive still farther east into the boreal forest to listen for any owls that may be calling.
Alternatively, we may head west to Riding Mountain National Park, should reports of Great Gray Owls be regular there, or we may head north to Hecla Island. Where we stay for the middle two nights will be chosen based on where owls are being seen in a particular winter. We may stay in Winnipeg for all the nights on the tour or we may stay in Lac du Bonnet, Pine Falls or Riding Mountain National Park for nights 2 and 3.
Days 3 and 4 - Winnipeg/ Lac du Bonnet / Riding Mountain National Park
Our day outings typically start around 8 a.m., but we may also opt to go out earlier and have a late breakfast. We cover roads and trails at the edge of the boreal forest, where we have the greatest chance of seeing Great Gray Owls. These birds are usually quite tame and should allow for great photo opportunities. We have a good chance of seeing Northern Hawk Owls also, which are even more confiding than Great Gray Owls. Plus Bald Eagle, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Canada Jay and Boreal Chickadee.
There are usually a number of small towns and cottages in the area where we visit feeders to look for Common Redpoll and Evening Grosbeak. At this time of year there are usually still some Hoary Redpolls around and we have a slim chance of spotting a late lingering Pine Grosbeak. Crossbill numbers fluctuate enormously; with luck we may see some.
Other target birds include Spruce Grouse and both “three-toed” woodpeckers, but finding these species is often more a matter of luck than anything else. Lunches will be in the field or at local restaurants. Weather permitting, and if people are up for it after a long day in the field, we’ll try again for owls on the evening of Day 3. Great Horned, Barred, Boreal and Northern Saw-whet Owls are all possible. Late afternoon on Day 4 we return to Winnipeg, where we have dinner.
Day 5 - Departure
Our Manitoba Owls birding tour ends today and you are welcome to leave anytime.