Grand Rapids, Manitoba
The Gull Bay Spits, located in the north basin of Lake Winnipeg, are about 30 km to the southeast of the town of Grand Rapids, Manitoba. They are attached to the south side of Long Point, at its extreme southwest corner, and they extend out into the Gull Bay portion of Lake Winnipeg. There are two spits in total, the north spit and the south spit. The base of the north spit has been covered in water, thereby creating an island.
The Gull Bay Spits host breeding Piping Plovers, an endangered species in Canada. A total of 52 adults and 14 juveniles were counted in July 1988 and in June of 1991, a total of 38 Piping Plovers were recorded during the International Piping Plover Breeding Census. Five years later, in 1996, a total of 17 birds were detected in the same area. The average of these years is nationally significant. Unfortunately, and in line with other previously well-established areas for Piping Plover in Manitoba, there have been no sightings of this species since 2005.
Piping Plover censuses in this area also indicates that there has been an increase in the numbers of breeding gulls and terns. Ring-billed Gull (3,750 nests), Herring Gull (33 nests) and Common Tern (1,140 nests) all bred here during the 2000 Piping Plover Census. Also, these spits are heavily utilized by staging and migrating gulls and waterfowl.
One of the threats to the endangered Piping Plover is the disturbance of their habitat or their nests and eggs. Although this beach is fairly isolated, there is always the potential of too much human activity, primarily from fishing activity, leading to decreasing reproduction of birds nesting on the beach. ATV use has also been identified as a potential issue. The increasing gull and tern population, possibly exacerbated by discards from the fishing industry, may increase the likelihood of predation events on chicks. The plovers are also affected by high water levels and wind storms. This is especially so because Manitoba Hydro keeps Lake Winnipeg water levels high.
The Province of Manitoba has designated this IBA as part of the Walter Cook Special Conservation Area for Piping Plover. The designation will ban the use of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) from April 1st through to September 15th and restrict access if Piping Plover breed within the IBA in future years. The wider area, including Gull Bay Spits, has been proposed for a National Park, thereby providing some form of protection.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status