I am reporting for Jean Iron who is
surveying Red Knots and other shorebirds at the Mingan Archipelago
(islands) on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec.
Jean and Gerry Binsfeld are with Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario
Museum (ROM). Mark is part of an international team researching Red
Knots. Yves Aubry of the Canadian Wildlife Service (Quebec Region)
is the project supervisor. The surveyors are living in
Havre-Saint-Pierre, which is 150 km before the end of the road along
Quebec's north shore. The Mingan Archipelago is about 870 km (540
mi) northeast of Quebec City. The archipelago consists of about 1000
coastal islands, some quite large where the knot surveyors are
working. This is the region that John James Audubon called Labrador
when he visited and collected birds in 1833. However, Audubon never
visited the current Labrador, which is now the mainland portion of
the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, that became part of
Canada in 1949. The Mingan Archipelago is a National Park Reserve
administered by Parks Canada. The vegetation is boreal and subarctic.
The shorebird habitat isn't the usual tidal mudflats. At low tide
the flat limestone bedrock on the large islands is exposed creating
many thousands of tidal pools full of invertebrates and sea life.
This is where the Red Knots and other shorebirds feed.
RED KNOTS: 1500 knots seen
yesterday, 24 July 2007. This is a major staging area. 1500 knots is
about 7% of the population in eastern North America. All adults
(presumably mostly females) to date are in worn and faded alternate
plumage. They are beginning to molt indicated by incoming pin
feathers seen on birds in the hand. The breeding grounds of knots in
the Canadian Arctic are known in the broad sense, but the exact
origins of the Quebec migrants are not known. The adult males and
growing juveniles are still on the breeding grounds. The surveyors
are looking for leg flags indicating where the birds were banded. So
far they've found birds banded in Chile (red), Argentina (orange),
Brazil (blue), USA - Delaware Bay (dark
green and lime green on upper left),
and Canada (white). In the nets they had a knot banded in Argentina
and another banded last spring on Delaware Bay, USA. There have been
of Florida birds
(lime green on upper right).
Other Shorebirds: Hudsonian
Godwits, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers,
Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs,
Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpipers, Sanderlings,
Short-billed Dowitchers (subspecies griseus that breeds in
Quebec and Labrador). All migrant shorebirds are adults that
recently departed the nesting grounds. They feed at the tide edge
among the seaweed. There are no mudflats. When the tide goes out it
exposes flat limestone (platiers in French) and pools covered with
seaweed and invertebrates.
Other Bird Sightings: On Sunday
their day off, Charles Kavanagh, Chief of Conservation, Parks Canada
took the surveyors to the seabird nesting islands where they saw
about 300 pairs Atlantic Puffins, about 100 Razorbills and a colony
of Black-legged Kittiwakes. Other birds seen were Arctic Terns,
Northern Gannets, Black Guillemots, Northern Fulmars, Parasitic
Jaegers, Red-throated Loons nest on ponds in peat fens just outside
Havre-Saint-Pierre, Gray Jay pair with dark juveniles (no bands
Dan), Boreal Chickadee with young, Blackpoll Warblers, Fox Sparrow,
Lincoln's Sparrow, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Pine
Siskins. Boreal Owls and Saw-whet Owls nest boxes.
Miscellaneous: There are no Red
Squirrels on the islands. This is very important in preserving the
original ecology of the islands. Red Squirrels are nest predators.
The area is excellent for whale watching and seals.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This is a
cooperative project headed by Yves Aubry, Biologist, Canadian
Wildlife Service (CWS) and Alan Baker, Head of Department of Natural
History, Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It is funded by World
Wildlife Fund, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Canadian Wildlife
Service. Parks Canada provides transportation to the islands and
Six Shorebird Surveyors are: Yves Aubry (CWS), Mark Peck (ROM),
Christophe Buidin, President of Club d'ornithologie de la Cote-Nord
(under contract to CWS), Yann Rochepault, Directeur of Club
d'ornithologie de la Cote-Nord (under contract to CWS). Gerry
Binsfeld*, volunteer from Ontario. Jean Iron*, volunteer from
Ontario. *Note: Gerry and Jean speak French and they love
shorebirds, which is why Mark Peck recruited them.
People supporting the surveys are: Charles Kavanagh, Chief of
Conservation, Parks Canada. Yann Boudreau, Park Warden, Parks Canada
who assisted with the banding on four nights. Harold Rochette,
Capitaine of Le Cartier, Parks Canada boat.
Jean reports the outstanding hospitality of the people along
Quebec's North Shore. For more information
Minden and Toronto ON
This is the second
report on 5 August 2007 from Jean Iron et al. who are surveying Red
Knots and other shorebirds at the Mingan Archipelago (islands) on the
north shore of the
Gulf of St. Lawrence
in Quebec. Jean and Gerry Binsfeld from Ontario are assisting Mark
Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Yves Aubry (project
supervisor) of the Canadian Wildlife Service (Quebec Region). The
Mingan Archipelago is about 870 km (540 mi) northeast of Quebec City.
The archipelago is a National Park Reserve administered by Parks
RED KNOTS: The archipelago is a major staging area.
Outgoing tides expose flat limestone bedrock with thousands of pools
rich in invertebrates. On 4 August after banding all night, the
surveyors watched about 1200 Red Knots come to roost on the rocky
shore at high tide. There were probably several thousand additional
knots on three adjacent large islands.
Migration Chronology: The following migration waves
based on marked birds and blood samples from 2006. (1) First arrivals
are a mix of males and females (may indicate failed breeders), (2)
then predominately females, (3) males and early juveniles (first
juvenile 8 Aug in 2006), (4) juveniles migrate last.
Color Marking Scheme: About 10% of the eastern
population is marked with colored bands and flags. The surveyors look
for leg flags indicating where the birds were marked. The colour
scheme is as follows: Chile (red), Argentina (orange), Brazil (blue),
United States (note correction from previous post for US) - Florida
(lime green on upper right), Delaware Bay (dark green and lime green
on upper left), and Canada (white). The flags have letters and numbers
that often can be read in the field giving precise information about
that individual. Last year the surveyors had about 800 readings from
marked birds. With increased coverage this year they've had over 1000
readings to date including about 200 individuals whose exact banding
locations are known. They've seen birds from Chile, Brazil, Argentina,
United States (from
Delaware Bay, but no sightings of
Florida birds) and Canada. Readings
provide information on age and gender, chronology of migration,
location of wintering grounds, survival, and breeding success.
Staging: From the band and flag combinations,
researchers are tracking length of stay at the staging islands. For
example, on 26 and 28 July, Mark Peck relocated the first knot marked
with a white flag YA on 17 July. On 29 July, Jean Iron relocated one
banded on 18 July with white flag AA. Yves Aubry again relocated the
latter bird on 3 August. This individual knot has been there at least
21 days. Yves saw other birds that have been there for 15, 16 and 18
days. These observations clearly indicate the importance of the Mingan
Archipelago as a staging area for Red Knots.
Weights: Knots are fattening up well. On 3 August they
banded a very fat bird that weighed 246 grams, close to heaviest knot
that Mark Peck has banded. Another weighed 183 grams. These weights
suggest the birds will fly a long distance when they depart, perhaps
going directly to South America. These data again indicate how
important the Mingan Archipelago is for southbound Red Knots.
Genetic Studies: A blood sample and a tiny covert
feather are taken from each banded shorebird.
Concerns: Oil spills from shipping. Human disturbances
are currently minimal though islands have hikers and kayakers in
summer. Peregrine Falcons disrupt feeding shorebirds, but none has
been seen so far this summer. Merlins breed on the islands but are not
a major bother to the shorebirds. Jaegers are present in small numbers
but are not bothering the Red Knots.
Avian Influenza: A veterinarian, Guillaume Theberge,
from Centre Quebecois sur la Sante des Animaux Sauvages, trained the
banding crew to test for Avian Influenza.
Other Shorebirds: Hudsonian Godwit (78 at banding
location yesterday), Whimbrel (fairly common), Ruddy Turnstone (1-2000
adults, they've seen flagged birds from Delaware Bay, turnstones often
associate with knots), Black-bellied Plover (uncommon), Semipalmated
Plover (uncommon), Semipalmated Sandpiper (2000-3000 adults), Least
Sandpiper (uncommon, first juvenile on 28 July), Pectoral Sandpiper
(first adult on 23 July), PURPLE SANDPIPER (adult on 2 August),
Greater Yellowlegs (common, most in deeper tidal pools than Lessers),
Lesser Yellowlegs (common, 2-3 times more common than
Greaters), White-rumped Sandpiper (numbers are building, 3000-4000
adults in prebasic body molt, wings and tail molted later on wintering
grounds - this molt strategy is similar in many shorebird species.
Mark Peck saw a White-rumped on 2 August that was banded in
Argentina), Sanderling (uncommon), Short-billed Dowitcher (fairly
common, griseus subspecies that breeds in Quebec/Labrador).
Other Bird Sightings: Red-throated Loons are often seen
flying inland carrying fish from the St. Lawrence to feed their young
on small often fishless nesting ponds. Carrying fish in flight to
young is not done by other loons. In flight the Red-throated Loons
give loud quacking calls. Herring Gulls were seen yesterday eating
abundant berries near a mine site about 45 km inland from coast. Jean
and Gerry saw a female Spruce Grouse with two small young trying to
cross the coast highway. Gerry directed traffic so they could cross
safely. The 1/3 grown young flew across the road into trees when the
female cooed. Grouse chicks can fly when less than a week old.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are present in good numbers. Pine Siskins and
Purple Finches are also in good numbers especially in towns with
sunflower seed feeders.
Seabirds and Whales: On Wednesday (1 August) the
surveyors went on a whale research vessel (Mingan Islands Cetacean
Study) into the Gulf. Very close views of 11 Humpback Whales, 15 Fin
Whales, Minke Whales, Harbor Porpoises and Gray Seals. Juvenile Common
Murres at sea with adult males, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, many adult
Northern Gannets,recently fledged juvenile Black-legged Kittiwakes,
Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers and Northern Fulmars.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The Red Knot survey is a cooperative
project headed by Yves Aubry, Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service and
Alan Baker, Head of Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario
Museum in Toronto. It is funded by the
World Wildlife Fund, Royal Ontario
Museum and Canadian Wildlife Service. Six shorebird surveyors are Yves Aubry (CWS),
Mark Peck (ROM), Christophe Buidin, President of Club d'ornithologie
de la Cote-Nord (contract with CWS). Yann Rochepault, Directeur of
Club d'ornithologie de la
with CWS). Gerry Binsfeld (ROM volunteer). Jean Iron (ROM volunteer).
Additional people helping with surveys: Charles Kavanagh, Chief of
Conservation, Parks Canada. Yann Boudreau, Park Canada Warden, assists
with banding. Harold Rochette, Capitaine of Le Cartier, Parks Canada
boat, and boat operators Rene Desbiens and Louis Richard provide
transportation to the islands. The Red Knot project would be
impossible without the excellent logistical support provided by the
technical and conservation staff from Parks Canada.
Jean mentioned the long
hours worked (days & nights) and dedicated staff of the Canadian
Wildlife Service, Royal Ontario Museum, and Parks Canada.
Ron Pittaway (on behalf
of the surveyors)