[Ontbirds]James Bay - Akimiski Island Report # 8

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Thu Jun 26 20:31:53 EDT 2008

We had a satellite phone call from from Akimiski Island for the 
period 11-26 June 2008. Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum, Tyler 
Hoar and Gerry Binsfeld arrived on Akimiski Island on 11 June and 
will be leaving the Island tomorrow, 27 June. They are surveying 
shorebirds along coastal transects north and south of camp, and 
inland along a 7 km transect through black and white spruce, wet 
areas, and a previous burn now growing in with balsam poplar. They 
are also monitoring Semipalmated Plovers and Killdeers. During 16 
days of surveys they have walked over 250 km. Most days were cool and 
foggy, the last three days were sunny, high 8 degrees celsius. Ice is 
still on James Bay.

Shorebird Breeding and Migration
Northbound shorebird migration was over by about 13 June. Most flocks 
of 40+ Hudsonian Godwits left by 13 June. A few birds remained, 
feeding on the coast then flying inland where they may nest. However, 
the interior of Akimiski Island is difficult to access on foot, so 
Mark, Tyler and Gerry have not looked inland for nests.

About 20 Marbled Godwits, one with a satellite transmitter, have been 
regular on the coast where they feed, then fly inland. Much suitable 
nesting habitat occurs in the interior in large sedge meadows and 
fens. The surveyors have not been able to access these large inland 
fen meadows to check for nests.

Most Semipalmated Plover and Killdeer nests were wiped out by the 
very high tide on 8 June. They renested and the first Semipalmated 
Plovers hatched on 24 June. Depredation by Red Foxes, Common Ravens, 
American Crows and Herring Gulls is high.

Southbound shorebird migration just started. 20 to 60 adult Hudsonian 
Godwits a day are now gathering at this staging area on the coast. 
Their numbers will increase in James Bay, where they will fatten up 
before their mostly nonstop long distance flight to South America 
later in the summer. About 50 adult Lesser Yellowlegs are gathering 
on the mudflats indicating the first southbound migrants of this 
species. Expect the first southbound migrant adult Lesser Yellowlegs 
any day in southern Ontario.

Between 5 and 10 Short-billed Dowitchers have been seen every day 
along the coast. Some could be early southbound migrants.

Brant migrated north on 12/13 June, however a small flock of about 51 
has remained throughout the period. Rafts of 200 male Common 
Goldeneye were on the bay on 16 June, indicating these are molt 
migrants that will summer on James Bay. White-winged and Black 
Scoters, and Common Loons have been sighted.

Single sighting of Sharp-tailed Grouse and Spruce Grouse.

Arctic Terns are nesting on gravel ridges. Bonaparte's Gulls are 
regular on the coast.

Great Horned Owl seen on 17 June.

31 Gray Jays on a 7 km transect inland in black and white spruce. 
Gray Jay seen taking Ruby-crowned Kinglet egg. Ruby-crowned Kinglets 
were agitated when Gray Jays are near.

Vagrant Gray Catbird and Northern Mockingbird seen on 25 June.

Many singing male Tennessee Warblers. Yellow Warblers were building 
nests on 16 June and are still laying eggs on 26 June, whereas 
Yellow-rumped Warbler eggs are hatching now. Northern Waterthrushes 
are in the sloughs inland from camp.

6 Le Conte's Sparrows south of camp arrived on territory around 14/15 
June. 1 Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (subspecies alterus) was 3 km 
south of camp on 15 June. Many singing Fox and Lincoln's Sparrows. 
Savannah Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow eggs are hatching on 26 June.

40 White-winged Crossbills were seen on 19 June, and 1 to 3 pairs 
seen each day since.

Mammals: First Polar Bear sighted on 12 June 1 km south of camp. Next 
night, it came within 150 metres of camp. Firing a bear banger 
discouraged it from coming closer. Three nights later another Polar 
Bear overturned water barrels outside the camp fence on two 
consecutive nights. The electric fence and a 4 metre high fence 
protect the camp. Two Lynx are regularly seen over past 5 days.

Map link shows snow and ice conditions. Akimiski (note green island) 
is close to Ontario coast half way up west side of James Bay. 

Jean Iron and Ron Pittaway

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