What sound does the approaching winter make? The honk of migrating geese and ducks. Manitoba is a key resting spot for over 400,000 geese, ducks and other migrating birds on their way from their nesting grounds in Canada’s north to their winter homes down south. Here are some of Manitoba’s top migration hotspots.
Just minutes from Winnipeg, Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre is one of Manitoba’s most important migration staging areas. There are 300 species of birds that will use the marsh during migration and throughout the year, including warblers, sparrows as well as many shorebirds and birds of prey. Migration fly-ins are best viewed during the last week of September and the first few weeks of October when the number of migrating waterfowl typically reaches its peak, into the hundreds of thousands.
Add to your viewing experience by enjoying a Fall Migration Dinner (Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 5), joining the celebration during the Migration Festival (Oct. 1-2) which features bird banding and horse-drawn wagon rides, and learning how migrating birds used the stars to navigate on Astronomy Night (Oct. 20). The migration season wraps up with the Farewell Concert (Oct. 23), where classical music comes together with the sounds of geese in flight.
The natural oasis that is FortWhyte Alive welcomes thousands of migrating Canada geese. Every Wednesday to Sunday from Sept. 21 to Oct. 23 take in a sunset goose flight and an interpretive presentation, complete with bonfire and a bannock bar. Or, enjoy a lakeside three-course dinner prepared by the chefs of the Buffalo Stone Café. Make your reservation ahead of time to dig into a delightful meal that might feature caramelized maple and bacon roasted pork loin, seared Arctic Char, cranberry and brie stuffed chicken, or a penne tossed with farm fresh vegetables. After dinner follow the self-guided trails that cross over the floating boardwalks for easy viewing on the marshes. Learn about the mysteries of migration – what triggers the voyage and how migrating birds and animals find their way.
Whitewater Lake in southwestern Manitoba between Deloraine and Boissevain is another important staging area for waterfowl and shorebirds. At the south end of the lake are interpretive signs, a viewing mound, trail and boardwalk. From here you can see the thousands of tundra swans that stop by in the late fall as well as the hundreds of thousands of snow geese, Canada geese and other ducks.
Visit the Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary in Whiteshell Provincial Park where there are opportunities to view Canada Geese up close. See the hundreds of migrating Canada geese and explore the sanctuary and the boreal forest on a 2.5 km self-guided trail. Special programming on Thanksgiving weekend include crafts, activities and games that give you a chance to learn more about the migration of the iconic Canada goose.
At Lake Audy in Riding Mountain National Park, migrating birds come to rest in the fescue grasslands. It’s also here that you can see the herd of 30 plains bison or even elk. Listen for the bugle of the bull elk as the huge animals are in the midst of rutting season. Low human traffic in the fall makes it a great time to see wildlife. You could see black bears, eagles, foxes, lynx or cougars.
And in case you didn’t realize, Manitoba is also home to another migrating animal – the mighty polar bear. Every fall, the bears migrate from their summer habitat on the tundra to the shores of Hudson Bay. There they wait for the ice to form, giving them access to their winter hunting grounds, stocked with seals. Book a tour to view polar bears in their natural habitat in Churchill, Manitoba.