©Bill Stilwell
Red fox pups frolick outside den

Unusual, unique, rare and exciting wildlife sighting are taking place throughout rural Manitoba this spring. Topping the list is a cougar sighting near Plum Coulee, but that is far from the only interesting report.

Near Deleau, Manitoba, a white-faced ibis was photographed recently. While this is unusual, these birds have been spotted at Whitewater Lake for several consecutive years. Perhaps they are expanding their range.

According to information on the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature website, the ibis is listed as "accidental" in Manitoba. Sightings are "infrequent and far outside the usual range and includes species recorded once or twice or only at very great intervals."

The white-faced ibis is a wading bird with a length of about 19 inches and a wingspan of approximately 37 inches. They are bronze-brown coloured and appear black from a distance. One very noticiable feature is their long, down-turned bill.

Last year great egrets were regulary sighted throughout much of southern Manitoba. Again, this is a bird species that is well outside its normal range. These large, pure-white wading birds are likely around this year as well.

Several burrowing owls have been spotted this spring. One was sighted near Neepawa while a second was reported near Miami, Manitoba. Burrowing owls are considered to be "very rare".

If you are driving around this weekend, keep your eye out for red fox pups. The young of this year can currently be found frolicking outside the den. Some of the young foxes are already getting quite large.

There are many interesting birds and animals worth watching. For example, you might find a den of young coyotes. Great blue herons nest in colonies and if you happen to know of any groups please send the information along. That would also apply to any active birds of prey nests if they are accessible for photography without fear of disturbing the birds.

Another species of real interest is the turkey vulture. Not that many years ago, this was an unusal sighting in most parts of the province. Today they are relatively common. However, few people ever see their nests. In Saskatchewan recent studies show they often nest in abandoned farm buildings. Do you know of any turkey vulture nests?

Within a few weeks we will begin to find lady-slippers blossoming throughout the region. The yellow lady-slipper is quite common but the showy lady-slipper is far less abundant. Last year they were blossoming around mid-June.

Another species of real interest is the small white lady-slipper. If you happen to know of any nearby patches, please send the information along. One of the few places where this endangered species is found in the Brandon Hills.