[Ontbirds] First Migrant Shorebirds & Arctic Breeding Conditions

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Fri Jun 26 08:09:21 EDT 2009

Yesterday we saw an adult Lesser Yellowlegs at Reesor Pond in Markham 
near Toronto and on Wednesday there was an adult Least Sandpiper in 
Hamilton. These are the first "fall migrant" shorebirds and they are 
right on schedule. Directions: Reesor Pond is on the west side of 
Reesor Road just south of Highway 7.

Arctic Breeding Conditions: Several people asked us to comment about 
recent reports of a "Disastrous breeding season in the Arctic". The 
Arctic is huge; it is 3500 km from southern James Bay (subarctic) to 
northern Ellesmere Island. Most shorebirds have large breeding ranges 
and even in late years many birds breed successfully and rarely does 
the entire Arctic experience the same climatic conditions. We checked 
with northern researchers and summarized their comments below. 
Shorebird nesting in 2009 is poor in some regions but normal to good 

Ontario: Ken Abraham reports that conditions in the Hudson Bay 
Lowlands were about 10 days late from Attawapiskat south on James 
Bay, including Akimiski Island, with Canada Geese and Snow Geese 
hatching in mid June, more like the 1990s average than the 2000s 
average and within the overall norms. Other species on Akimiski 
Island were correspondingly late. His guess is that for those species 
that require shorter time there will be some reduction but not huge. 
Perhaps the predation effect will be somewhat greater if alternate 
species are less available. Because coastal snow, ice and water 
inundation conditions were similar from Cape Henrietta Maria to the 
Manitoba border, Ken expects that for Canada Geese nesting within 40 
- 60 km from the coast, a much reduced effort and productivity will 
be the norm. Snow Geese at Cape Henrietta Maria were greatly down and 
the suggestion of a 90% reduction seems to fit what they saw on their 
survey. However, beyond 40 - 60 km inland, he thinks conditions will 
be different. Mark Peck said that species nesting away from the 
Hudson Bay Coast in boreal bogs and fens such as yellowlegs should 
not be severely impacted because much of the freeze took place near the coast.

Manitoba: The situation is worse in northern Manitoba at Churchill 
where temperatures were well below normal until recently and the snow 
cover melted late. However, Erica Nol reports that birds have started 
to nest, just very late, and it won't be a complete bust for 
shorebirds if there are enough bare spots. Whimbrels and Hudsonian 
Godwits are nesting, but overall nesting success should be below 
average for most shorebirds in northern Manitoba.

Nunavut: Snow melt was up to three weeks late in mainland Nunavut 
north of Manitoba. Recent temperatures have been close to normal. 
Much of Baffin Island is now snow free and conditions there and on 
Bylot Island are about normal. High Arctic breeders should have a 
good breeding year.

Northwest Territories: Vicky Johnston suspects it will be a poor 
breeding year in parts of the Western Arctic. Spring was roughly 
three weeks late in Yellowknife on Great Slave Lake based on 
leaf-out. The Mackenzie Valley and Delta warmed early but then cooled 
off again. The Delta flooded slowly and the water receded slowly, so 
some prime shorebird breeding areas were subject to heavy predation.

Yukon: Cameron Eckert reports a late spring, but once the heat came, 
everything shifted into high gear.

Alaska: Declan Troy reports from the North Slope that the snow on the 
tundra is long gone. It was much warmer earlier in the month and his 
guess is that the breeding season has been early there.

We will be recording the arrivals and numbers of adult and juvenile 
shorebirds in southern Ontario and may post updates.

Acknowledgements: We thank Ken Abraham, Bruce Di Labio, Cameron 
Eckert, Michel Gosselin, Vicky Johnston, Erica Nol, Mark Peck, Ken 
Ross, Don Sutherland, and Declan Troy.

Ron Pittaway and Jean Iron
Toronto ON

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