Akimiski Island in James Bay, 24 May to 9 June 2006

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From 24 May to 9 June 2006, I volunteered as a member of an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) study headed by research scientist Ken Abraham. We surveyed Canada Goose nest production and web tagged goslings, and monitored shorebirds on Akimiski Island (Nunavut Territory) in James Bay. Also, Ken is heading a study of Marbled Godwits on James Bay. Photo of Marbled Godwit on territory.


Map by Andrew Jano


On 24 May, when we arrived at camp on the northeast shore of Akimiski Island, the pack ice of James Bay was close to shore. An electric fence around the camp kept out Polar Bears, which come ashore when the sea ice breaks up usually in mid-July, but some come ashore earlier.


As we worked with the Canada Geese, we watched Marbled Godwits begin nesting nearby. Very little is known about the James Bay breeding population of Marbled Godwits, which probably totals only a few thousand individuals on the west coast of James Bay in Ontario, on Akimiski Island, and on the south coast of James Bay in Quebec. Photo: 5 June 2006.


Marbled Godwits breed in the grasses along the coast. The above shows typical habitat of five or six Marbled Godwit territories that I encountered every day while surveying Canada Geese. Marbled Godwits have the same plumage colour as the grass before it greens up, giving them camouflage protection in the early stages of nesting when the grass is short. Their nests are notoriously hard to find. Katie Walker of Trent University is studying their breeding biology. Her findings will help the conservation of Marbled Godwits.


Upon approaching a Marbled Godwit territory, one of the pair tried distracting me by kawicking kawicking repeatedly and loudly, leading me away either to the right or left or backwards. Godwits often flew around me in a circle kawicking loudly with one leg dangling.


Sometimes its voice broke as the kawicking became more frantic. I never did find a nest, but I hope Katie Walker is successful for her thesis.


Marbled Godwit in last year's grass on 1 June 2006.


We saw Hudsonian Godwits in small numbers and migrating flocks of up to 50 birds. Some were displaying by doing butterfly flights and calling. Steve Belfry (OMNR) videoed Hudsonian Godwits copulating on 1 June. A few may breed on Akimiski Island.


This banded Semipalmated Plover on territory is part of a long term study by Erica Nol and her students from Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. Nigel Ward is studying their breeding biology on Akimiski Island in 2006.


Northern Pintail nest contains nine eggs. Northern Pintails, Mallards and American Black Ducks were the most numerous ducks. Photo 25 May 2006.