Great Canadian Parks / Manitoba

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The Parks / Manitoba / Wapusk National Park

The Siberian native ’Ross's Gull’ is just one of the rare birds that has been sighted here. Tundra swans nest in the shallow ponds that dot the plain. Ptarmigan and Great Grey owls can be seen out on the tundra. Small ponds and marshes are ideal spots to view Red-necked phalaropes, terns and widgeons. In June, over 100 species arrive in spring breeding plumage. Locals claim that birding here is particularly rewarding because it is possible to view many species at close range, without any obstacles like trees getting in the way.


Arctic terns are common, but have the distinction of migrating from pole to pole twice yearly, consequently receiving more hours of sunlight than any other bird. They are colony nesters, defending their territory from interlopers. Although nests are built on gravel scrapes where there is little cover or camouflage, the entire colony minds each nest, flocking to attack any outsiders that venture too close. Other species take advantage of this army of defenders by building their nests amongst the terns. Ross's gulls, Little gulls and semi-palmated plovers are tolerated; ravens, jaegers and people are not.


The only Snow goose colony in Manitoba has its nesting grounds at La Perouse Bay. Scientists are currently monitoring this population because it appears to be eating itself out of house and home. From the air it is possible to see large tracts of red barren ground where the geese have cleared all vegetation.


There are more than 400 native plant species. In summer, the flowering plants carpet the tundra with a dizzying array of shapes and colours. Miniature orchids tuck into spaces behind rocks or hummocks, anywhere they can catch a bit of sun and avoid the scathing wind. The dominant colour seems to be purple, possibly owing to the length of the sun's rays. Even the Indian Paintbrush here is purple, not red, orange or yellow as it is in Western Canada. Mackenzie Hedysarum grows in great profusion and attracts myriad insects.


Even the rocks are colourful, painted with a bright orange lichen called Xanthoria Alleganis. Like everything else in the near arctic, it is extremely fragile. It grows very slowly, taking anywhere from 300-1200 years to reach the size of a quarter.

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