James Bay Shorebird Surveys 2013 - Reports

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Below are 3 reports posted to Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs.

 

James Bay Report # 1 on 21 July 2013

 

This is Jean Iron's first report by satellite phone for the period 15 - 20 July 2013 from East Point on Hannah Bay, Ontario, on the south coast of James Bay. Hannah Bay is a new site to survey the shorebirds using southwestern James Bay. The Hannah Bay crew comprises Christian Friis, shorebird biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and volunteers Jean Iron and Antonio Coral. Two other crews are at Longridge Point and Little Piskwamish Point. See map link below. Study sites are part of the Western James Bay Shorebird Survey. These studies may lead to legal protection such as a biosphere reserve. Decisions to protect areas will involve the James Bay First Nations.

The Hannah Bay camp consists of three fine cabins on a dry ridge backing onto the boreal forest (spruce/willow) and about 200 m from the high tide mark. The coast is rocky with a grassy fringe and pools when the tide is low. There is a large shallow bay and marsh south of camp.

SHOREBIRDS: 16 species to date. The high count and date for each species is given. All migrant shorebirds so far have been adults. The first juveniles will arrive soon. Reports pertain to Hannah Bay (Lat 51.38, Lon 79.68) except where indicated. 

Killdeer: Breeds. 5 adults including one with a chick on 20 July.

Spotted Sandpiper: Breeds. 1 adult.

Greater Yellowlegs: Breeds on muskeg inland from coast. 324 staging adults along coast on 20 July.

Lesser Yellowlegs: Breeds on muskeg inland from coast. 294 staging adults along coast on 20 July.

Whimbrel: 8 on 19 July. Migrants from farther north.

Hudsonian Godwit: 180 on 19 July. Staging adults from farther north. After fattening and undergoing some body molt most will fly nonstop to South America.

Marbled Godwit: Breeds. 99 adults in small flocks on 20 July. The disjunct James Bay population apparently winters mostly around the Gulf of California instead of the closer Atlantic Coast.

Ruddy Turnstone: 16 adults from farther north on 20 July.

Red Knot: 27 adults on 20 July. Southbound knots in Eastern Canada stage in two main areas where they fatten for long flights to South America: (1) southwestern James Bay in Ontario and (2) the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec. Both locations are at approximately 50 degrees N latitude. There is very little overlap in the populations using both sites. Staging and fattening knots on James Bay specialize on bivalves on intertidal mud flats before migrating to South America. The CWS and Parks Canada on the Mingan Archipelago report good numbers of knots arriving there suggesting a better breeding season than last summer. The number of juveniles in August and September will be a better indicator as will the counts on James Bay.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: 3665 migrant adults on 20 July. This peep has declined sharply in numbers and is of major conservation concern. The two main southbound staging areas are the Bay of Fundy and James Bay. There is a project underway of Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and CWS to find out arrival times and length of stay at James Bay. This summer 40 radio trackers are being placed on Semipalmated Sandpipers at Longridge Point on James Bay to find out how long they stage there. A receiver can track birds within a 5 km radius. A total of 178 birds will be banded and flagged after radio marking the first 40.

Least Sandpiper: Breeds. 181 migrant adults on 20 July.

White-rumped Sandpiper: 104 migrant adults on 20 July.

Pectoral Sandpiper: 176 migrant adults on 20 July.

Wilson's Snipe: Breeds. 7 on the 20 July. Still winnowing.

Wilson's Phalarope: Breeds. 1 adult on 20th. A small population breeds in the prairie-like marshes of southwestern James Bay.

Red-necked Phalarope: 4 migrant adults from farther north on 20 July.

OTHER BIRDS in no particular order: This is a dry summer and recent temperatures have been above normal. No Yellow Rails heard to date. This rail breeds in coastal sedge marshes above the usual tidal zone and may be affected by drier marshes as in recent years. Canada Goose, 450-500.

Ducks: Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Duck (200), Mallard, Northern Pintail, female and 6 young on 20 July. Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser and Common Merganser.

Common Loon. Double-crested Cormorant. Bald Eagle, 1 adult and 2 immatures probably preying on Canada Geese. Northern Harrier, only 1 adult male suggesting a low vole year. Merlin. Bonaparte's Gull, small numbers of adults with one beginning head molt. Common Tern (every day). Arctic Tern, 1 on 18 July. Common Raven. Alder Flycatcher. Tree Swallow, 6 on 20 July. Black-capped Chickadee. Swainson's Thrush. BROWN THRASHER on 17-18 July.

Warblers: Yellow Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler and Common Yellowthroat.

Sparrows: Savannah Sparrow, Le Conte's Sparrow (a few and singing), Nelson's Sparrow (singing, more common than Le Conte's), Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow. Red-winged Blackbird. White-winged Crossbill, 5. 

MAMMALS: Large bull Moose on 17 July. Gray Wolf, 2 sighted on 19 July.

Wolves observed stalking Canada Geese and chasing them into the water but no kills noted. Red Squirrel. 

HERPTILES: Eastern Gartersnake, "Hudson Bay" American Toad, Wood Frog and Northern Leopard Frog.

BUTTERFLIES: White Admiral. Fritillary sp. Skipper sp.

Map of survey sites on southern James Bay.

http://www.jeaniron.ca/2013/JamesBay/map.htm

Snow/Ice Cover Map

http://www.natice.noaa.gov/pub/ims/ims_gif/DATA/cursnow_usa.gif 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The Western James Bay Shorebird Survey is a cooperative effort spearheaded by the Canadian Wildlife Service, Royal Ontario Museum , Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Bird Studies Canada and Moose Cree First Nation. Additional support for the 2013 expedition was provided by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. The OMNR also provides helicopter transport to and from field camps and accommodations in the staff house while crews are in Moosonee. Thanks to Ken Abraham, Rod Brook, Sarah Hagey and Kim Bennett of OMNR for logistical support. Jean thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance allowing her to make satellite phone calls to me so timely reports are available on the Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs. Lastly, without the many hours of dedicated volunteer support, this project would not be possible.

Jean's second report will be in about 5-7 days.

Ron Pittaway

Toronto, Ontario

 

James Bay Report # 2 on 26 July 2013

 

This is Jean Iron's second report by satellite phone for the period 21 - 25 July 2013 from East Point on Hannah Bay, Ontario, on the south coast of James Bay. Hannah Bay is a new site to survey the shorebirds using southwestern James Bay. The Hannah Bay crew comprises Christian Friis, shorebird biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and volunteers Jean Iron and Antonio Coral. One other crew is at Longridge Point. A separate summary for Longridge marked with a *star is included below. See map link below for survey locations.

The Hannah Bay camp is on a pristine wilderness coast with no human debris or flotsam that is frequent on most sea coasts and the Great Lakes. The surveyors have not seen any people since arriving on 14 July.

SHOREBIRDS: 22 species to date. The high count and date for each species are given for the count period. All migrant shorebirds so far have been adults.

The absence of juveniles for some species such as Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper, and reports from farther north suggest a late breeding season in 2013.

Black-bellied Plover: 17 on 25 July.

Semipalmated Plover: 25 on 25 July.

Killdeer: 8 on 24 July. 

Spotted Sandpiper: 1 on 24 July.

Greater Yellowlegs: 437 on 22 July.

Lesser Yellowlegs: 999 on 22 July.

Whimbrel: 45 on 22 July.

Hudsonian Godwit: 463 on 22 July.

Marbled Godwit: 55 on 24 July.

Ruddy Turnstone: 34 on 25 July.

RED KNOT: None during this period indicates that Hannah Bay is not a staging area for knots. See numbers at Longridge below.

Sanderling: 12 on 25 July.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: 12,650 on 21 July.

Least Sandpiper: 181 migrant adults on 20 July.

White-rumped Sandpiper: 125 on 21 July.

Pectoral Sandpiper: 489 on 22 July.

Dunlin: 4 on 21 July.

Stilt Sandpiper: 5 on 21 July.

Short-billed Dowitcher: 11 on 21 July. Most were the subspecies hendersoni.

Wilson's Snipe: 7 on the 21 July.

Wilson's Phalarope: 2 on 22 July.

*LONGRIDGE SUMMARY (high counts only) fide Stuart Mackenzie: Black-bellied Plover, 7 on 22 July. Semipalmated Plover, 31 on 22 July. Greater Yellowlegs, 307 on 23 July. Lesser Yellowlegs, 138 on 21 July. Whimbrel, 130 on 17 July. Hudsonian Godwit, 400 on 25 July. Marbled Godwit, 3 on 17 July. Ruddy Turnstone, 209 on 22 July. Sanderling, 9 on 25 July. RED KNOT, >1000 birds present since 18 July, high of 1500 on 25th, slowly building with >200 tags read. Semipalmated Sandpiper, 1100 on 21 July. Least Sandpiper, 85 on 18 July, <30 since. White-rumped Sandpiper, 450 on 21 and 22 July. Pectoral Sandpiper, 270 on 21 July. Short-billed Dowitcher, 4 on 17 July. Red-necked Phalarope, 1. Singles of Arctic Tern, more Common Terns. Bonaparte's Gull, adult numbers building, juvenile on 19 July. Parasitic Jaegers, 2 adults hunting shorebirds. Yellow Rails, 6 around camp. 12 Nelson's and 2 Le Conte's Sparrows around camp. Clay-colored Sparrow, 1 on 22 July.

OTHER HANNAH BAY BIRDS in no particular order: GRAY CATBIRD on 25 July. No Yellow Rails. A Sora on 24 and 25 July in cattails. 16 species of waterfowl including 8 Redheads on 21 July, Northern Shoveler and Blue-winged Teal. American White Pelican, 4 on 24 July. Pair of Northern Harriers on territory. Peregrine Falcon, adult on 21 July. Merlin chasing shorebirds on 24 July. Common Nighthawk flying southeast on 25 July. Blue-headed Vireo. Philadelphia Vireo. Red-eyed Vireo. Gray Jay, 2 adults on 25 July. Boreal Chickadee on 26 July. Brown Creeper on 25 July. Winter Wren. Golden-crowned Kinglet. Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Nashville Warbler. Magnolia Warbler. Yellow-rumped Warbler. Le Conte's Sparrow, 1 singing on 24 July. Nelson's Sparrow, 14 singing on 24 July. Common Grackle on 24 July. White-winged Crossbill, 13 on 22 July. Pine Siskin, 3 on 24 July.

MAMMALS: Black Bear, 2 on 25 July. Hannah Bay is south of the normal range of Polar Bears which are rare south of Akimiski Island. See map link. Deer Mouse and a vole sp. in cabin.

BUTTERFLIES: Old World Swallowtails on host plant, Scotch Lovage. Pink-edged Sulphur. Bronze Copper. Northern Spring Azure. Atlantis Fritillary. Northern Crescent. White Admiral. Viceroy. Common Ringlet (abundant). Long Dash.

WILDFLOWERS (some): Balsam Ragwort. Labrador Indian Paintbrush. Northern Grass-of-Parnassus. Labrador Tea. Large-flowered Wintergreen. Twinflower. Bunchberry.

Map of survey sites on southern James Bay.

http://www.jeaniron.ca/2013/JamesBay/map.htm 

Snow/Ice Cover Map

http://www.natice.noaa.gov/pub/ims/ims_gif/DATA/cursnow_usa.gif

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The Western James Bay Shorebird Survey is a cooperative effort spearheaded by the Canadian Wildlife Service, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Bird Studies Canada and Moose Cree First Nation. Additional support for the 2013 expedition was provided by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. The OMNR also provides helicopter transport to and from field camps and accommodations in the staff house while crews are in Moosonee. Thanks to Ken Abraham, Rod Brook, Sarah Hagey and Kim Bennett of OMNR for logistical support. Jean thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance allowing her to make satellite phone calls to me so timely reports are available on the Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs. Lastly, without the many hours of dedicated volunteer support, this project would not be possible.

Jean's third report will be in 7 - 10 days.

Ron Pittaway

Toronto, Ontario

 

James Bay Report # 3 on 4 August 2013

 

This is the third report for the period 26 - 30 July 2013 from East Point on Hannah Bay, Ontario, on the south coast of James Bay. The Hannah Bay crew comprised Christian Friis, Shorebird Biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and volunteers Jean Iron and Antonio Coral. This report also includes highlights from Longridge Point (fide Stuart Mackenzie) marked below with *stars. The Western James Bay Shorebird Survey is a joint effort of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and Bird Studies Canada in cooperation with the Moose Cree First Nation. See Hannah Bay photos in link 3 below.

SHOREBIRDS: 22 species to date. The high count and date for each species are given for the period.

Black-bellied Plover: 35 adults on 28 July.

Semipalmated Plover: 118 adults on 26 July.

Killdeer: 10 on 26 July.

Spotted Sandpiper: 1 on 27 July. 

Greater Yellowlegs: 305 molting adults on 26 July.

Lesser Yellowlegs: 450 molting adults on 26 July. First juveniles on 27 July.

Whimbrel: 16 on 26 July.

Hudsonian Godwit: 309 molting adults on 26 July.

MARBLED GODWIT: 47 on 26 July. The high count of 99 on 20 July 2013 and other observations suggest that Marbled Godwits breed in the vast marshes of Hannah Bay. Todd (1963) in the Birds of the Labrador Peninsula described Marbled Godwit habitat at Hannah Bay. He wrote "The level, wet meadows which the godwits haunted reminded me strikingly of the plains of Saskatchewan, where I had become familiar with this species in the season of 1932." This godwit was recently found breeding nearby in Quebec at Baie Cabbage Willows and Baie de Boatswain. The James Bay population was recently revised upwards from 1500 to 2000 birds based on observations from last summer. See Shorebird Population Estimates 2012 in second link below. Climate warming may be having a positive effect on the breeding success of Marbled Godwits on James Bay.

Ruddy Turnstone: 35 adults on 26 July.

RED KNOT (rufa subspecies): 3 adults on 28 July. This low number indicates that Hannah Bay is not a staging area for knots. See higher numbers for the same period at Longridge reported below. The endangered rufa subspecies breeds in the central Canadian Arctic.

Sanderling: 3 molting adults on 26 July.

SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER: 10,102 adults on 26 July. This high number indicates Hannah Bay's importance for this sandpiper. Antonio Coral recorded two flagged birds: One with yellow flag MV2 on upper right leg on 28 July and one with lime green flag 3P3 on upper right leg on 29 July. David Mizrahi of the New Jersey Audubon Society provided the following information "The flag yellow bird was banded on 7 April 2012 at our study site, Warappakreek, Commewijne District, Suriname (0559'28.59"N, 5454'48.97"W). The lime green flagged bird was banded in Delaware Bay on 22 May 2013, at our Fortescue study site, Cumberland County, New Jersey (3913'24.58"N, 75 9'59.84"W)."

Least Sandpiper: 134 on 29 July. First juvenile on 26 July. 90% juveniles on 29 July. Rapid turnover from adults to juveniles.

White-rumped Sandpiper: 558 molting adults on 26 July. Most juveniles do not arrive until September.

Pectoral Sandpiper: 127 non-molting adults on 26 July.

Dunlin: 19 on 29 July. All adults.

Short-billed Dowitcher: 6 on 27 July. Adults of the subspecies hendersoni.

Red-necked Phalarope: 1 juvenile on 29 July. 

OTHER HANNAH BAY BIRDS: 18 species of waterfowl. New for the period: Blue-winged Teal, Greater Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser. Northern Pintail with 5 chicks on 29 July.

Bald Eagles daily with high count of 7 on 27 July. Daily several adults, year old molting juveniles and one appeared to be a fresh juvenile. Merlin with juvenile just behind camp. Hunting shorebirds daily. Sandhill Cranes daily with high count of 51 on 26 July. Bonaparte's Gulls 38 on 28 July. First four juveniles on 26 July. Herring Gull: first juvenile on 26 July. Ring-billed Gull: first juvenile on 27 July. Golden-crowned Kinglet feeding young on 27 July. Nelson's Sparrows daily. High count of 15 on 26 July, still singing on 30 July even in very windy conditions. Le Conte's Sparrow less common with high count of 3 on 27 July. Pine Siskin, high of 7 on 30 July.

MAMMALS: Two Black Bears on 29 July.

BUTTERFLIES: Northern Spring Azure, Northern Crescent, Atlantis Fritillary, Aphrodite Fritillary, Common Ringlet, White Admiral, Viceroy. Very few good days for butterflies with rain and wind.

ODONATES: Black Meadowhawk, Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, Aeshna sp.

WILDFLOWERS: Beach-pea, Yellowrattle, Canada Buffaloberry (Soapberry) with lots of berries, Yarrow, Cinquefoil sp., Thrift, Long-stalked Stitchwort, Arctic Daisy, Fireweed, Common Skullcap.

*LONGRIDGE HIGHLIGHTS: Courtesy of Stuart Mackenzie: Longridge Crew: Stuart Mackenzie (Bird Studies Canada), Ian Sturdee (volunteer), Adam Timpf (volunteer), Sarah Neima (Mount Allison University) and Beth MacDonald (Mount Allison University). Black-bellied Plover: 8 on 28 July. Semipalmated Plover: 31 on 28 July. Killdeer: 8 on 26 July. Spotted Sandpiper: 1 on 29 July. Greater Yellowlegs: 75 on 29 July. Lesser Yellowlegs: 74 on 29 July. Whimbrel: 19 on 25 July. Hudsonian Godwit: 200 on 28 July. Marbled Godwit: 1 on 26 July. Ruddy Turnstone: 103 on 26 July. RED KNOT: 1100 on 27 and 29 July. 266 flags recorded. Sanderling: 58 on 26 July. Semipalmated Sandpiper: 600 on 26 July. Least Sandpiper: 25 on 28 July. White-rumped Sandpiper: 750 on 26 July. Pectoral Sandpiper: 82 on 28 July. Dunlin: 15 on 28 July. Short-billed Dowitcher: 1 on 29 July. Wilson's Snipe: 1 on 29 July.  

*Stu Mackenzie reports they captured 67 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 1 Least Sandpiper and 30 White-rumped Sandpipers. 47 long-lasting VHF radio transmitters were put on Semipalmated Sandpipers (46) and Least Sandpiper (1). There is an array of over 15 towers and receivers installed across the Bay of Fundy waiting for their arrival. The array is designed to detect tagged animals in flight and on the ground for a distance of over 10 km. It will detect the birds' arrival in the Bay of Fundy, the details of their stopover and departure. It is a project of Mount Allison University (New Brunswick), Acadia University (Nova Scotia) and Environment Canada. Also of note is a Semipalmated Sandpiper recaptured at Longridge on 29 July 2013 that was banded as a hatch-year on 13 September 2011 at Milford Point, Connecticut.

*Other Longridge sightings: Black Scoter: 2000 and 2500 on 28 and 29 July. White-winged Scoter: 1 on 29 July. Red-breasted Merganser: 1 on 28 July. Ruffed Grouse: 1 on 27 July. American White Pelican: 50 on 29 July. American Bittern: 1 on 28 July. Little Gull: 1 adult on 28 July. Downy Woodpecker: 3 on 28 and 29. Alder Flycatcher: 2 on 29 July. Eastern Kingbird: 1 on 28 July. Barn Swallow: 1 on 26 July. Tennessee Warbler: 1 on 27 July. Wilson's Warbler: 1 on 29 July. Common Redpoll: daily, high 3 on 25 July.

LINKS:

1. Map of survey sites on southern James Bay.

http://www.jeaniron.ca/2013/JamesBay/map.htm

 

2. Shorebird Population Estimates and Trends 2012

http://www.jeaniron.ca/2013/ShorebirdPop2012.pdf

 

3. See Hannah Bay photos July 2013

http://www.jeaniron.ca/2013/JamesBay/p1.htm

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many thanks to Stu Mackenzie of Bird Studies Canada for data from Longridge. The Western James Bay Shorebird Survey is a cooperative effort by the Canadian Wildlife Service, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Bird Studies Canada and Moose Cree First Nation. Additional support for the 2013 expedition was provided by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. The OMNR also provides helicopter transport to and from field camps and accommodations in the staff house while crews are in Moosonee. Thanks to Ken Abraham, Rod Brook, Sarah Hagey and Kim Bennett of OMNR for logistical support. Jean thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance allowing her to make satellite phone calls to Ron so timely reports were available on the Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs. Lastly, without the many hours of dedicated volunteer support, this project would not be possible.

This is our final report. New crews are now in camp at Hannah Bay and Little Piskwamish Point. We look forward to their reports.

Jean Iron and Ron Pittaway

Toronto, Ontario