[Ontbirds]James Bay Shorebirds - Akimiski Report # 1

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Sun Aug 3 08:50:59 EDT 2008

Jean Iron called late last night (Aug 2) by satellite phone from 
Akimiski Island, Nunavut, in James Bay. She is volunteering again 
with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) under the 
general direction of Research Scientist Ken Abraham (OMNR) and 
Professor Erica Nol of Trent University. There are 6 people including 
Jean in camp from OMNR and Trent. I'll report more about their 
studies in future posts. James Bay reaches deep into Eastern Canada 
between Ontario and Quebec. Hundreds of thousands of shorebirds stage 
on the wide tidal flats and coastal marshes in transit between the 
Arctic and wintering areas in Central and South America. Aerial 
surveys indicate that the north coast of Akimiski Island is 
particularly important to southbound shorebirds. Jean will be 
recording the shorebird species, numbers, plumages/ages (adults and 
juveniles), stages of molt, movements related to tides, and habitats 
used for feeding and roosting. She'll also document much of the above 
with photographs. Yesterday thousands of distant shorebirds stretched 
along the coast, but surveyors were able to identify and count only 
birds within 1.5 km of camp. Today they will survey farther from 
camp. Recent sightings below.

Semipalmated Plover: 12 on August 1, 7 on August 2. No colour-banded 
local birds suggesting migrants.

Greater Yellowlegs: 70 on August 2. Mostly adults.

Lesser Yellowlegs: 150 on August 2. Mostly juveniles.

Hudsonian Godwit: 34 molting adults on August 2.

Marbled Godwit: 2 in flight on August 2. The 5 adult godwits fitted 
with transmitters this spring are still on the island. No nests were 
found this summer during thorough searches. Jean will be watching 
closely for juveniles indicating breeding this year.

Ruddy Turnstone: 12 adults (no signs of molt) on August 2.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: 500 mostly adults with a good proportion of 
juveniles. Juveniles will soon outnumber adults. Based on previous 
colour marking, some Semipalmateds from James Bay go to the tidal 
flats at the north end of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. Others 
were sighted in Ottawa and at Presqu'ile Provincial Park on Lake Ontario.

White-rumped Sandpiper: 1000 molting adults on August 2, most common 
shorebird. When adult White-rumpeds depart James Bay, most bypass 
southern Ontario apparently going east across Quebec to the Gulf of 
St. Lawrence and Maritime Provinces.

Pectoral Sandpiper: 64 non-molting adults feeding among the bright 
yellow Mastodon Flowers (Senecio congestus) in the marshy inshore.

Dunlin: 3 adults still mainly in worn breeding plumage.

Mammals: 5 Polar Bears were close to camp yesterday, including a 
female with a cub. About 50 Polar Bears annually summer on Akimiski 
Island waiting for freeze-up in late fall. These are the most 
southerly Polar Bears in the world. On Friday's flight from Moosonee 
to the island, 13 Belugas (white whales) including a female and calve 
were sighted midway between Akimiski and the Ontario coast.

Satellite image of Akimiski Island, largest island in James Bay. The 
camp is on the northeast coast.

Note sea ice off Ontario's north coast. This is annually the last 
part of Hudson Bay to have sea ice.

Jean will phone me every few days to post updates.

Ron Pittaway
Toronto / Minden ON

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