Southern James Bay
Below are 5
reports posted to Ontbirds and Shorebirds Listservs by Ron Pittaway
Shorebird Report #1
Posted 20 July 2011
This is Jean Iron's first
report via satellite phone for the period 16 -19 July from North
Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay, Ontario. North Point
is about 25 km (15 miles) north of Moosonee and about 825 km (512
miles) north of Toronto, Ontario. James Bay is the southeastern
extension of Hudson Bay reaching deep into eastern Canada between
the provinces of Ontario and Quebec south to about 51 degrees north
latitude. Its broad tidal flats, wide coastal marshes and islands
are of hemispheric importance to southbound shorebirds and waterfowl
migrating from the Canadian Arctic. Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario
Museum (ROM) in Toronto oversees the surveys of the endangered
rufa subspecies of the Red Knot and other shorebirds. Yellow
Rails are also being surveyed. Surveys are a cooperative venture of
the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Canadian Wildlife
Service (CWS), Moose Cree First Nation and ROM. This summer there
are two main survey sites - Longridge and North Point. Longridge was
also surveyed for Red Knots in 2009 and 2010, but this is the first
year for North Point. The crew at North Point is Jean Iron, Doug
McRae, Barbara Charlton and Kevin Hannah. The Longridge crew
comprises Mark Peck, Roy John, Emily Rondel and Antonio Coral.
GOOSE and SHOREBIRD
BREEDING SUCCESS: Early reports from the central and eastern Arctic
indicate that Lesser Snow Geese, Cackling Geese, Canada Geese and
shorebirds are having a good nesting season.
SHOREBIRDS: 16 species to date. Counts done at high tide. Usually
only the high count day for each species is given. Reports below are
from North Point unless otherwise noted.
Black-bellied Plover: 1 adult on 17 July.
Semipalmated Plover: 5 adults on 18th.
Greater Yellowlegs: 332 adults on 18th. Greaters nest nearby in the
Hudson Bay Lowland.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 451 adults on 18th, 3 juveniles on 17th. Lessers
nest nearby in the Hudson Bay Lowland.
Whimbrel: 11 adults on 17th.
Hudsonian Godwit: 176 adults on 17th.
Marbled Godwit: 2 adults (pair) seen daily on nesting territory.
There is a small isolated breeding population (about 1500 birds) on
southern James Bay.
Ruddy Turnstone: 1 adult on 18th.
RED KNOT: 35 adults on 18 July. 1 flagged bird (lime green) on 18th
probably from Delaware Bay, United States. About 10% of the rufa
subspecies is marked. 300 adults at Longridge on 19th.
Sanderling: 200 adults on 17th.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 6355 adults on 18th.
Least Sandpiper: 27 adults on 18th.
White-rumped Sandpiper: 3 adults on 17th. Numbers will increase
Pectoral Sandpiper: 246 adults on 18th.
Dunlin: 86 adults on 18th. Thousands of Dunlins (subspecies hudsonia)
stage in James Bay and undergo prebasic and preformative molts
before resuming migration about mid September. This is why Dunlins
are very rare south of the subarctic until much later than most
Wilson's Snipe: 5.
YELLOW RAIL: Coastal marsh conditions are very dry at North Point
and no Yellow Rails heard to date. Conditions also dry at Longridge.
However, Ken Abraham who is at Peawanuck on the Hudson Bay Coast
reports that "Conditions are great here. The pond levels in the
interior look good, while some nearer the coast are perhaps drier
than average, but not significantly."
OTHER BIRDS: In rough checklist order: Canada Goose. 60 American
Black Ducks. 276 Mallards. 1 Northern Pintail. 1 Green-winged Teal.
7 Common Goldeneyes. 5 Common Mergansers. 1 Black Scoter. 1 Common
Loon. 1 Double-crested Cormorant. 1 Opsrey. 1 immature Bald Eagle.
Northern Harrier and Short-eared Owl - no sightings of these two
raptors indicate very low vole and mouse numbers. 76 Sandhill Cranes
on 18th. 10 Bonaparte's Gulls (7 adults, 3 second year birds - a few
year old birds go to James Bay, but most summer well south of the
breeding grounds). 2 Caspian Terns on 18th. 6 Common Terns on 19th.
Alder Flycatcher. 10 Least Flycatchers reflecting the aspen forest
around camp. Gray Jay. Boreal Chickadee. Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Swainson's Thrush. Brown Thrasher on 18 and 19th; it is a regular
vagrant along the coasts of Hudson and James Bays. 8 Cedar Waxwings
on 16th. Tennessee Warbler carrying food. Black-and-white Warbler.
American Redstart. Ovenbird singing daily at camp. Clay-colored
Sparrow, 2 singing near camp, many birders are surprised that this
scrubland sparrow breeds around James Bay. Le Conte's Sparrow nest
with 4 eggs on 17th. Nelson's Sparrow. Common Grackle on 17th. A few
Common Redpolls. 3 Pine Siskins on 18th.
MAMMALS: One Black Bear is near camp, but it is behaving itself. A
solar powered electric fence surrounds the food cabin. Around camp
there is a Striped Skunk family, a Red Fox family and a young
Snowshoe Hare. Vole and mouse numbers are very low. Similar low vole
numbers on Akimiski Island, Nunavut.
BUTTERFLIES: Old World Swallowtail, Orange Sulphur, Pink-sided
Sulphur, Northern Spring Azure, Atlantis Fritillary, Northern
Crescent, White Admiral, Viceroy and Common Ringlet.
ODONATES: Kennedy's Emerald on 17 July.
Aerial photo showing location of North Point in red on southern
crews thank Ken Abraham, Rod Brook and Sarah Hagey of the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources for logistical support.
James Bay Shorebird
Posted 26 July 2011
This is Jean Iron's second
report via satellite phone for the period 20 - 26 July from North
Point on the southwest coast of James Bay, Ontario. North Point is a
vagrant trap - three examples are (1) the first Little Stint (adult
male) for Ontario was collected there on 10 July 1979, (2) the only
Ontario record of Common Poorwill was collected there on 4 June 1982
and (3) the only Ontario specimen of Western Wood-Pewee on 20 June
1984. This report includes limited information from Longridge Point.
Surveys are a cooperative effort of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM),
Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources (OMNR) and Moose Cree First Nation. The crew at North
Point comprises Jean Iron, Doug McRae, Barbara Charlton and Kevin
Hannah. The Longridge Point crew comprises Mark Peck, Roy John,
Emily Rondel and Antonio Coral.
Counts done at high tide. Usually only the high count day
for each species is given. Reports below are from North Point unless
Black-bellied Plover: 1 adult on 21st.
American Golden-Plover: 1 adult on 22nd.
Semipalmated Plover: 31 on 22nd.
Killdeer: 1 on 21st.
Spotted Sandpiper: 1 juvenile on 22nd.
Greater Yellowlegs: 315 on 21st. Some eating sticklebacks (tiny
fish). 250 at Longridge.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 682 on 26th. First juvenile on 26th. 400 at
Whimbrel: 61 on 24th. 47 at Longridge.
Hudsonian Godwit: 345 molting adults on 26th. 130 at Longridge.
Marbled Godwit: 4 on 21st. Territorial nesting bird chases
Ruddy Turnstone: 16 adults on 21st. 11 at Longridge.
RED KNOT: Longridge - 1100 adults on 23rd fide Mark Peck. North
Point - 160 on 22nd including 33 flagged birds from the United
States, Chile and Argentina. An exciting find was seeing a Red
Knot (TY on orange flag) on 26 July at North Point. TY spent 18 days
at Longridge last summer 2010. It was first banded in March
2006 in Argentina and photographed in August 2008 in Trinidad. An
aerial survey by CWS in 2009 found large numbers of knots about
midway between North Point and Longridge. Beginning on 30 July a
third field crew will spend two weeks in this area known as Little
Sanderling: 87 molting and fading adults on 21st. 2 flagged birds on
23rd from Delaware Bay in the United States.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER: 14,147 adults on 21 July. This count was at
high tide combined with a strong northeast wind, which concentrated
the birds. Colour-marking in the 1970s by Guy Morrison (CWS) at
North Point showed that most Semipalmated Sandpipers using southern
James Bay departed southeast to the Atlantic Coast before heading
over the ocean to South America. Semipalmated Sandpipers passing
through James Bay include many from the central and western Arctic
based on banding, colour-marking and measurements.
Least Sandpiper: 37 on 21st.
White-rumped Sandpiper: 1117 molting adults on 26 July.
Pectoral Sandpiper: 102 adults on 26th. 500 at Longridge.
Dunlin: 127 on 26th.
Short-billed Dowitcher: 1 juvenile on 24th. 6 at Longridge fide Mark
Wilson's Snipe: 2 on 22nd still winnowing.
Red-necked Phalarope: 1 adult on 23rd.
SHOREBIRD FOODS: Shorebirds in Hudson and James Bays feed on the
abundant larvae of the bivalve Macoma balthica (clam)and in southern
James Bay the gastropod Hydrobia minuta (snail), as well as a
variety of crustaceans (shrimps/crabs and allies, worms and
dipteran (fly) larvae (Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan 2003).
SHOREBIRD MIGRATION: Flocks of high flying migrating shorebirds,
some in V formations, were observed moving south in early evening
presumably heading for the Atlantic Coast.
YELLOW RAIL: Canada has about 90% of the Yellow Rail's breeding
range. The coastal brackish marshes of James Bay probably have the
largest breeding population of Yellow Rails in North America. They
breed in marshes dominated by Chaffy Sedge (Carex paleacea) fide Don
Sutherland (OMNR). The big news this summer is that crews have found
no Yellows Rails at both North Point
and Longridge Point where they are usually common. In July Yellow
Rails "tick" incessantly and are easily detected. Marshes are very
dry this summer at both North Point and Longridge. Yellow Rails may
have moved farther northalong James Bay and Hudson Bay where coastal
conditions are more normal this summer. Or possibly the rails shifted
to large freshwater fens well inland from the coast in the Hudson
Bay Lowland fide Don Sutherland (OMNR). Also, OMNR's Terrestrial
Biodiversity crews found Yellow Rails this summer near Big Trout
Lake in northwestern Ontario fide Ken Abraham (OMNR) and Don
OTHER BIRDS: In rough checklist order: Canada Goose - none at North
Point, however, Kevin Hannah on 26 July walked 7.5 km north along
the coast and found 2620 flightless Canadas including one with a
white neck collar 3X57. American White Pelican, 26 on 24th, it
recently began breeding on islands in James Bay. Sandhill Crane, 68
on 20th, the subspecies rowani breeds in the boreal forest. Merlin,
adult male on 21 July caught a Semipalmated Sandpiper. Northern
Harrier, adult male on 20th is the only report reflecting very low
vole abundance. Bonaparte's Gull, 62 on 22nd were mostly year old
nonbreeders plus some adults, 2 juveniles on 26th. Black Tern at
Longridge fide Mark Peck. Arctic Tern, 1 adult on 21st and 3 on
22nd. Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1 on 19th was omitted from the
previous report. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, 1 on 23rd. Northern
Shrike, a juvenile on 22 July regurgitated a pellet composed mainly
of beetle and insect exoskeletons. Similarly, Loggerhead Shrikes on
the Carden Alvar in southern Ontario eat many beetles and other
insects which form the bulk of their food during the warmer months.
Gray Jay, adult and juvenile around camp. Boreal Chickadee
feeding young on 24 and 25th. Brown Thrasher still there on 22nd.
Northern Waterthrush, 2 on 24th. Clay-colored Sparrow, 1 on 22nd. 2
Le Conte's Sparrow, 12 on 25th including one observed by Doug McRae
doing an aerial display. Nelson's Sparrow, 16 on 26th. Le
Conte's and Nelson's Sparrows are singing and in the same general
habitat. Both sparrows have moved more inland to moist pockets
because coastal sedge marshes are very dry this summer. White-winged
Crossbill: 20 on 24 July.
MAMMALS: Single Black Bears at both North Point and Longridge camps.
Electric fences surround food cabins at both sites. No Polar Bears
- they are very rare south of Akimiski Island. Two Belugas (White
Whales) at Longridge plus a dead one. An adult and 4 young Striped
Skunks around North Point camp.
BUTTERFLIES: Bronze Copper is new since last report. Correction to
last report - change Pink-sided Sulphur (typo) to Pink-edged Sulphur
thanks to Alan Wormington. He further said that "They might be
Paleano Sulphurs, but it's hard to tell unless you know them well.
Pelidne Sulphur should be there too, as well as Giant Sulphur - it's
not large as the name implies."
ODONATES: List from Kevin Hannah (CWS). In no particular order:
Kennedy's Emerald, Delicate Emerald, American Emerald , Four-spotted
Skimmer, Emerald Spreadwing, White-faced Meadowhawk, Cherry-faced
Meadowhawk, Sedge Darner, Subarctic Darner, Shadow Darner, Lake
Darner, Canada Darner, Zigzag Darner, Variable Darner (nominate
subspecies interrupta), Variable Darner (subspecies lineata). Kevin
noted a large drop in numbers of odonates on 25-26 July which he
attributed to the very dry conditions.
Aerial photo showing location of North Point in red on southern
Acknowledgements: I thank
Ken Abraham and Don Sutherland of the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources for information.
LITERATURE CITED: Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan. 2003. Ross,
K., and K. Abraham, R. Clay, B. Collins, J. Iron, R. James, D.
McLachlin, R. Weeber. 48 pages. Canadian Wildlife Service,
Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan
Shorebird Report #3
Posted on 3 August 2011
This is Jean Iron's third
report via satellite phone for the period 26 July to 2 August 2011
from North Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay in Ontario.
This report also incorporates sightings from Longridge Point and
Little Piskwamish Point. Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
oversees surveys of the endangered rufa subspecies of the Red
Knot and Yellow Rails. Surveys are a partnership of the ROM, Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Canadian Wildlife Service
(CWS) and Moose Cree First Nation. The North Point crew is Mike
McMurtry (OMNR), Jean Iron and Aus Taverner. The Longridge crew is
Mark Peck, Roy John, Emily Rondel and Antonio Coral. The Little
Piskwamish crew is Don Sutherland (OMNR), Doug McRae, Barb Charlton
and Ron Ridout. Little Piskwamish is about halfway between North
Point and Longridge. Surveyors will be at all three sites until 14
SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: 27 species to date. Juveniles of many
species increasing. The high count day is listed for each species.
Sightings refer to North Point unless stated otherwise.
Black-bellied Plover: 3 on 29 July.
Semipalmated Plover: 83 on 1 August included a banded individual
with green on lower right and metal on lower left.
Solitary Sandpiper: 4 on 26th at forest ponds at Longridge.
Greater Yellowlegs: 392 on 27th.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 867 on 27th, half juveniles on 2 August.
Hudsonian Godwit: 327 molting and fattening adults on 27th.
Marbled Godwit: 1 juvenile on 29th.
Ruddy Turnstone: 52 adults on 29th. 250 adults at Longridge.
RED KNOT: Famous knot TY on orange flag was still at North Point on
29th but moved about 35 km north to Longridge on 30th. Studies show
that many shorebirds return to preferred local areas from year to
year. 4990 on 1 Aug at Little Piskwamish, 3 with geolocators. 600 on
30th at Longridge with 190 sightings of individually marked birds.
Smaller numbers at North Point with high of 220 on 2 August. The
survey period mid July to mid August is timed to track the maximum
number of marked adults. Data from flagged birds will give
approximate ages and ratios of males to females. Researchers and
birders will re-sight birds showing which populations use James Bay
and their migration routes.
Sanderling: 15 molting adults on 29th.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER: This is peak adult migration time with
23,000 adults on 29 July at North Point exceeding the 14,147 on
21st. Southbound numbers at North Point are probably the largest in
North America away from the upper Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.
Both counts were with a combination of high tides and strong
northeast winds concentrating the birds. First 3 on 29th. 4,500 on
31 July at Little Piskwamish.
Least Sandpiper: 47 on 29th. Mostly juveniles, but still some adults
on 2 August.
White-rumped Sandpiper: Large numbers stage and fatten in southern
James Bay. 7,710 molting adults at North Point on 29th and 9,300 on
1 August at Little Piskwamish. These large numbers are not seen
south of James Bay indicating that they fly either to eastern Canada
where they are common or more likely most of the James Bay
population flies nonstop to South America.
Baird's Sandpiper: 1 on 27 July at Longridge.
Pectoral Sandpiper: 925 adults on 29th.
Dunlin: 265 adults on 29th.
Stilt Sandpiper: 1 adult on 26th at Longridge.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: 1 on 30 July at Longridge fide Mark Peck.
American Woodcock: 1 on 1 Aug at Little Piskwamish. There are nearby
records for Moosonee and Fort Albany.
Wilson's Phalarope: 1 adult on 26th and 30th at Longridge.
Red-necked Phalarope: 1 adult on 30th at Longridge.
HUDSON BAY SHOREBIRDS: Ken Abraham (OMNR) reports "We worked on the
coast from Shagamu River to the Pen Island area on 27-28 July and
observed large numbers of shorebirds. Of note were several hundred
Hudsonian Godwits, and lots of Pectoral, Semipalmated, White-rumped Sandpipers, Dunlins,
both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (seemed everywhere), Whimbrel and
others. It was particularly nice to see two small flocks of
Buff-breasted Sandpipers (14 in total) on 27 July foraging on
berries and insects on a ridge along the Hudson Bay coast. The
location was halfway between the Niskibi River and
the Severn River at N56 16.646 W87 46.922. Other species
included Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover, Short billed Dowitcher,
Wilson's Snipe and Red-necked Phalarope. Absent from the list were
Black-bellied Plover and American Golden-Plover."
YELLOW RAIL: 1 ticking at Little Piskwamish on 30 July to 1 Aug, but
none at North Point and Longridge because of dry coastal marshes
which normally have a 10-20 cm depth of water. Ken Abraham heard a
minimum of 2 Yellow Rails ticking loudly on 27 July at a freshwater
marsh about 10 km inland from the outlet of the Niskibi River on
OTHER BIRDS: Ken Abraham reports for the Hudson Bay coast of Ontario
and Akimiski Island, Nunavut, in James Bay. "We banded over 3000
adult Canada Geese and over 5000 goslings, plus 500 adult Lesser
Snow Geese and 800 goslings. We continue to be impressed by the
number of bald eagles on the Hudson Bay coast with many (even most)
being observed very near brood flocks of geese. I suspect they have
become an increasing factor in the mortality of both goose species
over the past decade. This year there were even several observations
on Akimiski Island during the two weeks of banding in late July,
which is unusual." Black Scoter, 400 molting males off Little
Piskwamish. Double-crested Cormorant, 2 on 2 Aug at Little
Piskwamish. Great Blue Heron on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish. Ruffed
Grouse drumming on 2 Aug. American White Pelicans, 71 in
supplemental plumage on 2 August. Northern Harrier, adult female on
31st. Northern Goshawk, adult on 30th by Doug McRae. Merlin on 30th.
Sora on 1 August at Little Piskwamish. Bonaparte's Gull, 350 on 31st
at Longridge. Ring-billed Gull, 2 juveniles on 28th. Caspian Tern, 3
on 1 Aug at Little Piskwamish. Common Tern, 2 on 2 Aug. Arctic Tern,
2 on 2 August. Great Horned Owl hooting at Little Piskwamish.
Northern Shrike, adult with 2 brownish juveniles at Longridge. Gray
Jays regular around camp. Swallows migrating south. Tree Swallow, 28
on 28th. Bank Swallow on 29th and 31st. Cliff Swallow on 29th.
Swainson's Thrush with young. American Robins eating Buffaloberries
(Shepherdia canadensis). European Starling, 65 at Little
Piskwamish were unusual. Cedar Waxwings
eating Buffaloberries. Canada Warbler singing on 1 & 3 Aug at Little
Piskwamish. Chipping Sparrow nest with young at Longridge. Clay-colored
Sparrow nest with young at Longridge. Savannah Sparrow nest with
eggs at Longridge. Savannah Sparrows abundant at North Point. Le
Conte's Sparrows and Nelson's Sparrows (subspecies alterus)
still singing. White-throated
Sparrow on 31st eating Buffaloberries. Red-winged Blackbird, 31 on 2
Aug, 36 at Little Piskwamish. Common Grackle on 1 August.
White-winged Crossbills, 33 on 29th. Excellent cone crop on White
Spruce. Crossbills extracting seeds from green cones. Some singing
suggests they may nest soon as cone crop ripens. Common Redpoll, 15
on 2 August at Little Piskwamish.
MAMMALS: American Marten on 2 Aug. Beluga (White Whale) 6 on 29 July
at North Point by Doug McRae and Barb Charlton. Two dead Belugas at
Longridge. Cause of death unknown, but possiby individuals trapped
in ice late last fall before they could migrate to leads and
polynyas in Hudson Bay where some Belugas spend the winter. A Black
Bear chewed a bar of Sunlight soap at Longridge; this fragrant
yellow soap is an old camp favourite. On the Hudson Bay coast, Ken
Abraham (OMNR) reports "There are a lot of Polar Bears ashore with
several sighted 10-20 km inland in the fens."
HERPTILES: Eastern Gartersnake: 1 on 31 July at Longridge. There are
previous records for southern James Bay. American Toads of the
colourful reddish Hudson Bay population and Wood Frogs are scarce
this summer probably because of the very dry conditions.
BUTTERFLIES: Two additions since last report from Barb Charlton are
Common Branded Skipper and Silver-bordered Fritillary (photos).
ODONATES: No new species since last report. Fewer dragonflies with
the dry conditions. They are eating Bulldog Flies (Tabanidae) which
pleases surveyors because these flies are aggressive biters.
IMPORTANT NEW PUBLICATION:
John Riley of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (formerly of OMNR)
has just published "Wetlands of the Hudson Bay Lowland - An Ontario
Overview". A hard copy of this scholarly publication with excellent
habitat photos is available from the author. John.Riley AT
Shorebird Report #4
Posted on 11 August 2011
This is Jean Iron's fourth
report by satellite phone for the period 4-10 August 2011 from North
Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay, Ontario. This report
also includes sightings from nearby Longridge Point fide Mark Peck
and Little Piskwamish Point fide Don Sutherland. Surveys are a
partnership of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Ontario Ministry of
Resources (OMNR), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Moose Cree
First Nation (MCFN). Minnie Sutherland from Moose Factory (MCFN)
joined the North Point crew on Sunday 6 August. The Longridge crew
is Mark Peck (ROM), Roy John, Emily Rondel and Antonio Coral. The
Little Piskwamish crew is Don Sutherland (OMNR), Doug McRae, Barb
Charlton and Ron Ridout. The North Point crew is Mike McMurtry (OMNR),
Jean Iron, Aus Taverner and Minnie Sutherland (MCFN).
JAMES BAY TO ATLANTIC COAST ROUTE: In spring most arctic shorebirds
migrate north rapidly through the centre of the continent largely
west of James Bay. In fall most shorebirds move more easterly
towards the Atlantic Coast. This results in much larger numbers
using James Bay (probably several million birds) during southbound
migration, where the broad tidal flats and intertidal marshes
provide an abundance of small invertebrates. Colour-marking
indicates that most (not all) southbound shorebirds departing James
Bay go east to southeast towards the Atlantic Coast, not
through the interior of the continent. One notable exception is the
James Bay population of Marbled Godwits whose wintering grounds
until recently were speculated to
be the south Atlantic Coast of the United States, which is the
closest wintering area. American researchers Bridget Olson (USFWS)
and Adrian Farmer (USGS) fitted Marbled Godwits with satellite
transmitters on Akimiski Island, Nunavut in 2007 and 2008 and the
godwits went southwest to winter at the Gulf of California (Sea of
Cortez) on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
Quoting Chuck Berry "You Never Can Tell".
SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: 27 species to date. Turnover from adults to
juveniles of some species (not all) is occurring rapidly. Counts are
done at high tide. Usually only high count day is listed. Location
of counts is North Point unless stated otherwise.
Black-bellied Plover: 7 on 6-7 Aug at North Point and 13 on 7th at
American Golden-Plover: 1 adult in full alternate plumage on 5th at
North Point and 1 molting adult on 9th at Little Piskwamish.
Semipalmated Plover: 49 on 6th at North Point and 97 on 3rd at
Little Piskwamish. No juveniles.
Killdeer, 1-2 daily including half grown young at Little Piskwamish.
Spotted Sandpiper, 13 on 4th at Little Piskwamish.
Solitary Sandpiper, 12 on 6th at Little Piskwamish.
Greater Yellowlegs: 167 on 7th at North Point (50%
juveniles) and 195 on 5th at Little Piskwamish.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 179 on 5th at North Point (70% juveniles) and 536
mostly juveniles on 6th at Little Piskwamish.
Yellowlegs Migration: Flocks of both species lift off in the evening
with much calling and form Vs high overhead flying south into the
Whimbrel: 8 on 5th at North Point.
Hudsonian Godwit: 158 molting adults on 6th at North Point and 322
on 9th at Little Piskwamish.
Marbled Godwit, 1 adult male defending territory on 9th at North
Point, its behaviour suggested young hidden in grass. 1 on 8th at
Ruddy Turnstone: 37 adults on 5th at North Point and 37 on 7th at
RED KNOT: Of the three surveys sites to date Little Piskwamish has
had the highest one day count (4990 on 1 Aug) followed by Longridge
(1400 on 6 Aug) with smaller numbers at North Point (220 on 2 Aug).
High counts for this period for Little Piskwamish (2,300 on 7th),
Longridge (1400 6 Aug) and North Point (150 on 7th). At
Delaware Bay, USA, recent spring counts range from 15,000 to 24,000.
This suggests that a high proportion of the population stages in
southwestern James Bay. Concentration areas are being mapped by GPS.
At Longridge as of 9 Aug they have 900 sightings of 230 differently
marked birds. Celebrity knot TY was back at Longridge on 5 Aug.
First juvenile knot on 9th at Little Piskwamish.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 10,500 on 7th at North Point were almost all
adults. 2,975 on 6th at Little Piskwamish. Next wave should be
Least Sandpiper: 251 on 9th at Little Piskwamish. All juveniles.
Leasts and Pectorals are back of the mudflats at ponds in marshes
White-rumped Sandpiper: 23,327 on 7th at Little Piskwamish. 12,500
molting adults on 7th at North Point. This is now the commonest
shorebird in southern James Bay.
Baird's Sandpiper: 1 juvenile on 8th at Longridge, 1 juvenile on 9th
at Little Piskwamish.
Roosting Peeps: At North Point the thousands of Semipalmated
Sandpipers and White-rumped Sandpipers rest and sleep for about
three hours twice daily at high tide. They gather in tight flocks on
grassy and gravel areas just above the high tide line. Jean
describes the scene as very peaceful as the birds sleep with the
chittering of some birds as they run around adjusting
themselves. The roost area is quite distant from the forest edge.
Luckily, the local Merlin hunts closer to the trees. When the peep
flocks fly they swirl and twist in unison with much chittering and
the sound of their wings fills the air.
Pectoral Sandpiper: 481 non-molting adults on 6th at North Point.
415 on 7th at Little Piskwamish. Most in marsh ponds back from the
Dunlin (subspecies hudsonia): 368 adults on 6th showing little or no
signs of molting. This is interesting for the date because adult
Dunlins undergo a complete prebasic molt at James Bay before
migration. Perhaps they fatten first before beginning to molt. Other
shorebirds such as White-rumped Sandpipers are actively molting and
fattening, but they undergo only a body molt while delaying molt of
their flight feathers (wings/tail) until they reach the wintering
grounds. First juvenile Dunlin on 8 Aug at Longridge. Juveniles also
stage and molt at James Bay.
Short-billed Dowitcher: 1 late adult on 6th at North Point. First
juvenile on 8th at Longridge. 5 juveniles at Little Piskwamish.
Wilson's Snipe: 13 on 6th at Little Piskwamish.
Wilson's Phalarope: 1 fresh juvenile on 6th at North Point, 5
juveniles on 7th at Longridge. This phalarope breeds in small
numbers in the wide prairie-like coastal marshes and meadows of
southern James Bay.
Red-necked Phalarope: 1 juvenile on 4th at North Point and 1 (age?)
on 9th at Little Piskwamish.
YELLOW RAIL: 1-2 ticking regularly at Little Piskwamish. Very low
number. None at North Point and Longridge Point.
OTHER BIRDS: In rough checklist order, if location not stated assume
North Point: Canada Goose, 1300 on 5th appeared to be all subspecies
maxima, presumably molt migrants from farther south summering
and molting on James and Hudson Bays where they often mingle with
breeding subspecies interior. Minnie Sutherland (MCFN) told
Jean about the special relationship the Cree
have with the geese. Black Scoter, hundreds daily of mostly molting
males offshore at Little Piskwamish. American White Pelican, 61 on
8th. Northern Goshawk, 2 at Little Piskwamish included a juvenile on
6th chasing shorebirds but obviously inexperienced and an adult
goshawk on 9th being mobbed by adult Northern Shrike. American
Kestrel, 1 on 7th at Little
Piskwamish. Sandhill Crane, 24 on 5th. Little Gull, 1 adult on 4th
at Little Piskwamish, 1 juvenile on 7th at Longridge. Bonaparte's
Gull, 138 on 6th at Little Piskwamish and 23 on 7th at North Point
were a mix of three age classes - most were adults, some juveniles
and a few second years. Almost all second year birds summer well
south of the breeding grounds. Bonaparte's nest in spruce trees
adjacent muskeg ponds and lakes. Common Tern, 7 on 4th at North
Point and 5 on 6th at Little Piskwamish. Arctic Tern, 1 on 5th at
North Point. Great Horned Owl (gray subspecies scalariventris
in northern Ontario), two duetting regularly at Little Piskwamish.
Northern Saw-whet-Owl, 1 singing in early morning on 7th at Little
Piskwamish is near
northern edge of breeding range, singing in August is very unusual.
Common Nighthawk, 1 on 3rd at Little Piskwamish, 3 on 7th at
Longridge. Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1 on 8th at Little Piskwamish and
1 on 9th at North Point. Gray Jay, pair with a dark juvenile around
camp, usually one young bird stays with the adults for a year,
juveniles are molting now or soon into formative
plumage which is almost identical to the adult. Swallow migration at
Little Piskwamish: Tree Swallow, 101 on 5th, Bank Swallow, 4 on 5th,
Cliff Swallow, 1 on 7th, Barn Swallow, 1 on 7th. MARSH WREN, 1
singing in cattail marsh at Little Piskwamish, Godfrey (1986) in the
Birds of Canada shows breeding and James (ROM 1991) reports "an
isolated small colony" near North Point. European Starling, 80
mostly juveniles on 8th at Little Piskwamish, really odd to see a
large flock at a wilderness location. WARBLERS at North Point in
pre-migration flocks in Balsam Poplars included Tennessee,
(this species migrates much later than other warblers), female
Cape May with 4 juveniles, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Palm,
Black-and-white, American Redstart, Yellow-rumped, and Yellow. Magnolia
Warbler, 1 on 8th at Little Piskwamish. Nashville Warbler, 1 on 6th
at Little Piskwamish. Connecticut Warbler on 6th giving partial song
at Little Piskwamish, Nancy Wilson and Doug McRae (OMNR Report 1993)
reported that Connecticuts were common in fens with Tamaracks near
Moosonee. Sparrows: Le Conte's last heard 6th, Nelson's (2 heard
10th), Clay-colored and Savannah have stopped singing recently,
White-throated Sparrows still singing. Rusty Blackbird, 1 on 8th.
Common Grackle, 3 on 3rd at Little Piskwamish. Purple Finch, at
least 1 daily at Little Piskwamish. White-winged Crossbill, 24 on
7th at North Point, 150 on 5th at Little Piskwamish, crossbills are
moving south daily there even though White Spruce and Tamarack have
excellent cone crops.
MAMMALS: Belugas, 5 at North Point on 3 Aug. An unidentified bat on
5th at North Point flying around camp at dusk. Woodland Caribou and
Moose tracks at Little Piskwamish. Large male Black Bear scavenging
a Beluga carcass at Little Piskwamish. Red-backed Voles at Little
Piskwamish camp, this is a forest vole whereas Meadow Vole is a
field vole. No reports of Meadow Voles is reflected in only 2
sightings of Northern Harriers at North Point and absence of
Short-eared Owls at all 3 survey locations.
BUTTERFLIES: Western White (photos) at North Point on 6-8 Aug with
high of 6 on 8th is only new butterfly since the last report.
Western Whites also at Little Piskwamish. Bronze Copper, 6 nectaring
and included a pair copulating on Mackenzie Water Hemlock (Cicuta
virosa/mackenzieana) at North Point. The host plants (genus
Rumex) are found along the coast.
AMPHIBIANS: Frogs and toads were inconspicuous this summer because
it was dry. After a good rain recently the crew at North Point heard
Boreal Chorus Frogs and Spring Peepers and saw American Toads.
FISH: Three-spined Stickleback. Mike McMurtry (OMNR) noted that
there was a high mortality of this Species Of Concern as intertidal
ponds dried this summer.
NATURAL HERITAGE INFORMATION CENTRE (NHIC): The Red Knot survey is a
multi-purpose inventory. Don Sutherland and Mike McMurtry are with
the Natural Heritage Information Centre. The NHIC is part of OMNR
involved with the inventory, monitoring and assessment of
provincially rare plants and animals such as Red Knot, Yellow Rail
and Short-eared Owl. Link to NHIC.
Map showing location of
North Point in red. Little Piskwamish Point (not shown) is midway
between North Point and Longridge Point.
thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance allowing her to
make satellite calls so reports are available on the internet.
Shorebird Report #5
Posted on 22 August 2011
This is my fifth and final report for
the period 11 to 14 August 2011 at North Point on the southwest
coast of James Bay, Ontario, and includes sightings from nearby
Longridge Point from Mark Peck and Little Piskwamish Point from Doug
McRae and Barb Charlton. The OMNR chopper flew survey crews from the
three camps to Moosonee on 14 August. We took the Polar Bear Express
train from Moosonee to Cochrane on 15th and drove home to southern
Ontario on 16th. Shorebird surveys are a partnership of the Royal
Ontario Museum (ROM), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR),
Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN).
The Longridge crew was Mark Peck (ROM), Roy John, Emily Rondel and
Antonio Coral. The Little Piskwamish crew was Don Sutherland (OMNR),
Doug McRae, Barb Charlton and Ron Ridout. The North Point crew was
Mike McMurtry (OMNR), Jean Iron, Aus Taverner and Minnie Sutherland
SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: A combined
total of 27 shorebird species was recorded for the three camps.
Black-bellied Plover: 56 on 13th at
North Point, 28 on 12th at Little Piskwamish, up to 50 daily at
American Golden-Plover: 1 molting adult
on 11th and 2 on 13th at Little Piskwamish.
Semipalmated Plover: 29 on 12th,
including first juvenile, at North Point, 52 on 13th at Little
Solitary Sandpiper: 4 on 11th at Little
Greater Yellowlegs: 451 on 11th at
North Point (70% juveniles) and 148 on 11th at Little Piskwamish.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 309 on 11th at North
Point (80% juveniles) and 691 mostly juveniles on 11th at Little
Whimbrel: 6 on 11th at North Point.
Hudsonian Godwit: 160 molting adults on
12th at North Point and 290 on 11th at Little Piskwamish, where a
Hudsonian Godwit with red flag CMC from Chile was seen and
photographed on 31 July.
Marbled Godwit, 1 adult male with 2
juveniles on 11, 12 and 13th at North Point, plus an additional
juvenile on 11th.
Ruddy Turnstone: 49 adults on 13th at
North Point and 58 on 11th at Little Piskwamish. Longridge recorded
a Ruddy Turnstone with a lime green flag from Delaware Bay, USA, on
RED KNOT: Of the three surveys sites
for this period Little Piskwamish had the highest one day count of
2400 on 11th, Longridge had 250 on 12th, and North Point only 5 on
13th. FLAGS: The combined three sites for the entire survey tallied
about 2000 individual sightings of flags representing more than 600
differently marked birds from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, United
States and Canada. Celebrity knot TY was last seen at Longridge on
11 August. A knot with a white flag placed in Quebec was seen many
times during the final two week period. DATALOGGERS: Longridge
recorded 2 dataloggers and Little Piskwamish had 5, all put on in
the United States. JUVENILES: The juvenile knot migration was just
starting when we left. Little Piskwamish, 7 juveniles on 11th.
North Point, 2 juveniles on 11th. Longridge, several juveniles on
12th. It would be interesting to know how many juveniles stage on
the James Bay and how long they stay. We hope to survey longer next
Sanderling: 26 molting adults on 11th at
North Point, 8 on 13th at Little Piskwamish. Longridge recorded a
lime green flag from Delaware Bay, USA.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 5100 on 11th at
North Point were still almost all adults. Increased numbers of
juveniles arrived on the afternoon of 13th. A bird with flag lime
OHU from the USA was at North Point on 13th. Longridge recorded a
yellow flag from Suriname on 28 July and 7 August.
Least Sandpiper: 308 on 12th at North
Point were almost all juveniles. 277 on 11th at Little Piskwamish
were all juveniles.
White-rumped Sandpiper: 31,657 on 11th
at Little Piskwamish. 9800 molting adults on 11th at North Point.
This is the commonest shorebird in southern James Bay.
Pectoral Sandpiper: 436 non-molting
adults on 12th at North Point. 295 on 11th at Little Piskwamish.
Dunlin: 209 adults on 11th at North
Point were starting to show signs of molt. 295 on 11th at Little
Short-billed Dowitcher: 27 on 11th at
Little Piskwamish, those seen well were juveniles.
Wilson's Snipe: 13 on 12th at Little
Wilson's Phalarope: 1 juvenile on 11th
at Little Piskwamish.
Red-necked Phalarope: 1 adult on 11th
at Little Piskwamish.
SHOREBIRD MIGRATION: A huge southbound
migration took place on 11th and 13th during the day, taking
advantage of strong north winds. Birds were high and very vocal.
Flock size varied from 6 to 70 and included Black-bellied Plovers,
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwits, Pectoral
Sandpipers, White-rumped Sandpipers, Dunlin and Ruddy Turnstones.
OTHER BIRDS: In rough checklist order:
Canada Goose, 476 on 11th at North Point and 853 at Little
Piskwamish. 3 Northern Harriers at North Point included 2 juveniles
on 12th and 13th, which were catching Savannah Sparrows. Small
mammals numbers were extremely low on the wide coastal prairie-like
expanses. Sandhill Crane, 38 on 12th at North Point and 30 on 11th
at Little Piskwamish. Little Gull, 1 juvenile on 12th at Little
Piskwamish. Bonaparte's Gull, 466 on 11th at Little Piskwamish and 8
on 13th at North Point. Common Tern, 33 on 13th at North Point
included many family groups with adults feeding noisy juveniles.
Arctic Tern, a family group of 4 on 13th at Little Piskwamish.
Long-eared Owl, 1 on 13th at Longridge was seen and heard. BELTED
KINGFISHER: 1 on 11th at Longridge was new for our survey camps
checklist. Northern Shrike, 1 on 12th at Little Piskwamish.
Olive-sided Flycatcher, 2 on 13th and 14th at North Point. Common
Ravens, 8 on 12th at North Point; one caught a sandpiper on 13th.
Boreal Chickadee, 1 daily at Little Piskwamish. Gray Jay, pair with
a dark juvenile regular at North Point and Little Piskwamish camps,
juveniles are molting now. Swallow migration at Little Piskwamish:
Tree Swallow, 33 on 12th, Bank Swallow, 2 on 12th. Swainson's
Thrush, 2 still at North Point Camp on 13th. American Pipit, 1 on
12th and 13th with damaged right eye at North Point. WARBLERS at
North Point in pre-migration flocks included Tennessee,
Orange-crowned, Cape May, Yellow-rumped, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll,
Palm, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Wilson's and Canada.
Little Piskwamish had a fallout of warblers on 12th. Sparrows: Le
Conte's Sparrow, 4 on 11th and 12th at Little Piskwamish. Nelson's
Sparrow, 11 on 11th at Little Piskwamish, Swamp Sparrow, 33 on 12th
at Little Piskwamish. Savannah Sparrow, 130 on 11th at Little
Piskwamish and 59 on 11th at North Point. Clay-colored Sparrow, 2 on
12th at North Point. Rusty Blackbird, 8 on 11th at Little Piskwamish.
Common Grackle, 1 on 13th at Little Piskwamish. Purple Finch, at
least 1 daily at Little Piskwamish and one on 12th and 13th at North
Point. White-winged Crossbills fed on ripening spruce cones at North
Point and were seen and heard regularly at Little Piskwamish.
MAMMALS: Male Moose with large antlers
seen from helicopter near Longridge on 14th. Gray Wolf tracks on
11th at North Point. Black Bear seen most days at Longridge.
Unidentified bat on 11th and 14th at Longridge. Heather Vole, 1 on
12th at Little Piskwamish.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I especially thank
Ron Pittaway for posting my reports from James Bay. Ron inspired my
love of shorebirds and encouraged me to volunteer for northern
surveys with the OMNR and ROM.
PHOTOS of this summer's survey.