Oak Hammock Marsh is Amazing

June 5, 2013 | Dr. Jeff Wells

Birding near Riding Mountain National Park
Credit: Jeff Wells

On Monday we did an early morning birdwalk at a marshy spot on a road south of Riding Mountain National Park where we had looked unsuccessfully for Great Gray Owls the two previous nights. As we stepped from the car a Red-necked Grebe gave its reedy call and we spotted a female on a nest nearby. Common Loons were calling and a Lincoln’s Sparrow sang from the top of a small willow while a Wilson’s Snipe winnowed overhead. A highlight for me was hearing a Nelson’s Sparrow singing from a sedgy area.

Red-necked Grebe
Credit: Jeff Wells

After breakfast at Elkhorn Resort Lodge we headed off on our three hour drive to Oak Hammock Marsh where Ducks Unlimited Canada has its Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre and national headquarters. There we were met by Paula, the center’s lead naturalist, who took great care of us and was amazing in her birding and naturalist skills—plus was really friendly and made us feel special.

Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre
Credit: Jeff Wells

It was a delight to step out of the vans in the parking lots to the sights and sound of Yellow-headed Blackbirds all around us. The Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre has world-class displays, viewing areas, and—most amazing for a nature center—a really nice café with a menu of sandwiches with bird names.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Credit: Jeff Wells

Tree Swallow
Credit: Jeff Wells

After lunch,  Duck’s Unlimited Canada scientist Stuart Slattery gave the Audubon group a fabulous presentation on the Boreal Forest region and how Ducks Unlimited Canada and the International Boreal Conservation Campaign are working towards its conservation. Thanks Stuart!

Stuart Slattery presents on the Boreal Forest
Credit: Jeff Wells

Then Paula brought us out for a one-mile walk through a portion of the roughly 9,000 acres  of wetlands that have been restored over the last 40 years. Ducks were everywhere in abundance including Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks and many others. Two Black Terns flew overhead and we scoped a Bald Eagle on a nest. Our group was pleased to get great looks at Clay-colored Sparrows, a Sedge Wren, Marbled Godwits, and a singing Western Meadowlark. Paula you are great and thank you!

Birding near the Interpretive Centre
Credit: Jeff Wells

It was almost 5:30 PM before we were able to pry the group away from Oak Hammock and start in to the Norwood Hotel in downtown Winnipeg. We had the incredible good fortune and pleasure to be joined by Sophia Rabliauskas of the Pimachiowin Aki project for dinner. After dinner she gave us a presentation on the Pimachiowin Aki project despite the fact that she had only arrived a few hours before from Australia after an 18-hour plane ride. Sophia gave us a great history of the project and told us about the current status of the proposal for designation of Pimachiowin Aki as a World Heritage site. Thank you Sophia!



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