Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mother Nature springs into action

  • Print
An American white pelican flies over the Red River.


An American white pelican flies over the Red River. Photo Store

Three gawky double-crested cormorants were flying fast and furious in a display of aerial acrobatics high over the Kildonan Settlers Bridge on a warm and slightly cloudy recent Saturday afternoon.

My friends Peter and Teo and I watched in admiration as those prehistoric-looking (as described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), dull-black fishing birds, relatives of frigatebirds and boobies, zoomed around like Second World War Spitfires and then disappeared down the river.

"They're like ninjas of the sky," Peter said afterwards.

Commented Teo: "I love cormorants. They're one of my favourite birds -- majestic and graceful as they fly by."

Spring is a time of return and renewal. There's much to see in Mother Nature now, especially migrating avians of all sorts.

"Right now, you'll be getting the songbird migration, especially warblers," says Mike Quigley, an education co-ordinator with the City of Winnipeg naturalist services branch, who adds that crows are partly responsible for why we have merlins (Falco columbarius) in the city because the merlins will often use abandoned crows' nests found in spruce trees.

He observes that by the end of May, there will be at least 20 species of warblers, including yellow-rumped warblers (most of which will move further north to nest in Manitoba's boreal forest region), in Winnipeg during their migration.

Over the past few days, while walking in Kildonan Park and along the wood chip path in McBeth Forest, Peter and I have spotted flocks of American white pelicans soaring overhead in typical V formation along the river, an elegant great egret coasting just above treetop level by the pavilion in Kildonan Park, a stealthy Cooper's hawk flying low and swift over the forest floor, merlins, mallards, wood ducks, Canada geese, Ruddy ducks, common goldeneyes, robins and much more -- including other raptors such as magnificent bald eagles soaring ever upwards on the thermals over the Red River.

There are other critters, too, that deserve our attention.

Now that the snow is finally gone and decent weather is here, you won't be able to walk by a pond without hearing the sounds of boreal chorus frogs and wood frogs, notes independent biologist Doug Collicutt, the founder of -- Manitoba's online nature magazine "dedicated to celebrating the biodiversity" of Manitoba.

"They are the two main species of frogs that you'd hear calling within city limits," he says.

Collicutt also mentions the larger leopard frogs, which are green or light brown with black spots and a white belly, will also start calling in May. "People don't see them," he says.

"They hear them. The sounds of each species are very distinct. You have to learn to distinguish the calls, like you do with bird calls."

Then there are the red-sided and plains garter snakes, respectively, that are starting to poke their heads out now. They're usually found along waterways and wetlands, wherever significant food sources, such as frogs and toads, can be found.

"Certainly, the painted turtles and snapping turtles will be arousing now that the rivers and ponds are thawing out," he says.

But it's still too early in the season for them to be basking along the shore.

"We don't know if there's much in the way of salamanders in the city, but tiger salamanders and blue-spotted salamanders are found just east of Winnipeg," Collicutt says.

A few colonies of the yellowish tan, short-tailed, heavily built Richardson's ground squirrels are found within Winnipeg city limits, as are the smaller thirteen-lined ground squirrel, which is easily identified by its bold pattern of solid and dotted, light tan stripes on a dark brown back and quite long and bushy tail.

"It (thirteen-lined ground squirrel) might be mistaken for one of the chipmunks (Tamias sp.), which have a smaller number of solid dark and pale stripes," writes naturalist Peter Taylor in Nature Manitoba News.

And, as many people know, white-tailed deer, beaver, muskrats, foxes, cotton-tail rabbits, raccoons, red and grey squirrels and other wild mammals inhabit our parks and forested areas.

Various types of insects are emerging at this time of year too.

These include species of butterflies that overwinter as adults, such as mourning cloaks, commas and tortoiseshells -- all members of the sub-family, Nymphalinae, says information from the Living Prairie Museum, a 12-hectare tall grass prairie preserve on Ness Avenue.

They may be seen flying on warm, sunny days in late autumn or early spring.

"They are some of the most long-lived butterflies," observes Collicutt, mentioning that mourning cloaks can live as adults for 10 months or even a bit longer.

It's all part of our natural heritage, whatever the season.

Martin Zeilig is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2013 J11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budget until 2018?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google