Approximately one hour north of Brandon, Manitoba, is Riding Mountain National Park, one of the best birding hotspots in all of Canada. An incredible diversity of habitats — mature boreal forest, prairie grasslands, and warbler-filled hardwood forests — makes the park spectacular. Riding Mountain supports more than 250 species of breeding birds, including such sought-after species as Connecticut Warbler, Great Gray Owl, and Spruce Grouse. Big Days in and around the park have approached 200 species.
Visiting several habitat types in a single day is enough to keep even the most experienced birdwatchers on their toes. You can search for canopy-dwelling warblers in the morning, scour prescribed-burn areas for Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers at noon, and finish the day looking for grassland specialties like Chestnut-collared Longspur and Sprague’s Pipit. Plus, check the shores of Clear Lake, adjacent to the town of Wasagaming, for loons, herons, shorebirds, ducks, and gulls.
Birding is comfortable, fun, and easy here and can be done from along roadsides or from one of the park’s many trails. — Glenn Bartley
Glenn Bartley is a professional bird photographer and leader of nature-photography tours. A frequent contributor to BirdWatching, Glenn also wrote about Goldstream Provincial Park, Victoria, British Columbia, Hotspot Near You No. 85.
Boreal and mixed hardwood forests, temperate grasslands, aspen parklands.
Varied. Many trails are flat and well maintained.
Great Gray and Northern Saw-whet Owls, Merlin, Spruce and Ruffed Grouse, Connecticut, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Golden-winged, Mourning, Tennessee, and Blackburnian Warblers, Ovenbird, Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Great Crested, Least, and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Cedar Waxwing, Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Evening Grosbeak, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sprague’s Pipit, Common Nighthawk, Horned Grebe, Black Tern, Franklin’s Gull, Osprey, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Pine Siskin.
When to go
May through September.
Checklist available at visitor center, which also provides up-to-date info about sightings and trail access. Hotels and restaurants in Wasagaming. Campgrounds throughout park. Christmas Bird Count scheduled for December 19, 2014.
National park. Entrance fees: $7.80 adult, $6.55 senior age 65 and older, $3.90 child age 6-16. Visitor center open 9:30-8 every day from late June through late August, 9:30-5 September 1-October 13 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
The park often carries out prescribed burns to maintain open grasslands — prime areas to search for American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers. Riding Mountain is home to black bears; learn bear-safety tips on the park’s website or ask a staff member.