[Ontbirds]James Bay Birds

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Thu May 25 23:30:16 EDT 2006

I just got a call from Jean Iron by satellite phone from Akimiski Island in 
James Bay. Akimiski is the largest island in James Bay - easily located on 
a map. Jean is volunteering with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 
(OMNR) who is studying the reproduction of Canada Geese (subspecies 
interior). The study is headed up by OMNR research scientist Ken Abraham. 
The crew is living in a bunkhouse camp on a dry beach ridge protected by an 
electric fence to keep away Polar Bears. The pack ice is up against the 
north shore of the island but there is considerable open water south of the 
island in James Bay. Yesterday and today they surveyed over 100 goose 
nests. The hatch will be early this year because of a warm spring and 
expected to start June 1, which is about a month later than the Giant 
Canadas (maxima) in southern Ontario. When the downy young hatch they will 
get a tiny numbered web tag to identify them later when they are big enough 
to band about late July. Jean will also be assisting Katie Walker, a 
graduate student from Trent University in Peterborough who is starting a 
study of the Marbled Godwits which breed in the prairie-like marshes of 
James Bay. Katie's thesis supervisors are Professor Erica Nol of Trent and 
Ken Abraham of OMNR. Very little is known about this small isolated James 
Bay population of Marbled Godwits which probably numbers only a few 1000.

While looking for goose nests today they saw 100s of migrating Brant and 
100s of migrating Horned Larks. They also saw Short-eared Owls and 
Rough-legged Hawks. Indications are that there is a high vole (Microtus) 
population on Akimiski Island. Shorebirds observed included 3 Hudsonian 
Godwits, Black-bellied Plover, Red-necked Phalarope and a 
displaying/singing Short-billed Dowitcher (probably subspecies griseus). 
Other birds of interest were Lesser Snow Geese (mainly blue morph), 
Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Peregrine Falcon, Glaucous Gull, 
Lapland Longspurs and White-crowned Sparrows. When Jean called tonight it 
was snowing and the temperature was 1C. She will phone again on Saturday or 
Sunday evening with an update.

Good birding,

Ron Pittaway
Toronto and Minden ON

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