[Ontbirds] James Bay Shorebirds, Ontario #4

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Sat Aug 7 19:12:57 EDT 2010

This is Jean Iron's fourth report by satellite phone for the period 1-6
August 2010 from Longridge Point on the south coast of James Bay. Jean
is a volunteer with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) surveying the
endangered rufa subspecies of the Red Knot and other shorebirds. The
crew is led by Mark Peck (ROM) who is a Canadian member of the
international team studying knots in the Americas. Other surveyors are
Don Sutherland and Mike McMurtry of the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources (OMNR), Doug McRae (ROM volunteer), Lisa Pollock (Trent
University/OMNR) and Ray Ford (writer).

Ontario's coastline of James Bay measures about 560 kilometres or 350
miles. The coast is extremely flat and intersected by several large
rivers and many streams. The southern coast is characterized by long
narrow promontories such as Longridge Point, wide tidal flats, shoals,
sandy bays, extensive brackish marshes and pools. Its importance to
shorebirds has been compared to the upper Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.

SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: 26 species to date. Three Peregrine Falcons
observed chasing shorebirds on 6 August. It is unlikely that these are
Tundra Peregrines (subspecies tundrius) which should be much farther
north at this date. Usually only the high count day is given for each
species in checklist order.

Black-bellied Plover: 212 adults on 6 August.

American Golden-Plover: 7 adults on 6 August.

Semipalmated Plover: 213 adults on 5 August.

Killdeer: 20 on 3 August were a mix of adults and juveniles.

Greater Yellowlegs: 206 (1/2 juveniles) on 3 August.

Lesser Yellowlegs: 434 mostly juveniles on 6 August.

Solitary Sandpiper: 2 on 1 August.

Spotted Sandpiper: 12 juveniles on 5 August.

Whimbrel: 69 adults (not molting) on 5 August. Here is a link to a
Whimbrel named Chinquapin that on 5 August was migrating south over
James Bay. Allow a few seconds to download map.

Hudsonian Godwit: 839 molting adults on 6 August.

Marbled Godwit: 1

Ruddy Turnstone: 656 adults and first juvenile on 5 August. 

RED KNOT: 2062 molting adults (no juveniles as of 6 August) on 2 August,
2000 on 3rd, 1200 on 6 July indicates about 40 percent departed between
3 and 6 August. Some flagged birds stayed 15 days. The migration
strategy of southbound knots is to gather at a limited number of
stopover sites such as southern James Bay where they fatten before
migrating nonstop to the next stopover or wintering grounds. 

Sanderling: 56 molting adults on 6 August, some with considerable rusty.
A green-flagged bird on the 6th was banded in New Jersey or Delaware,
United States.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: 3049 mostly adults on 6 August, very few
juveniles to date. 

Least Sandpiper: 162 juveniles on 6 August.

White-rumped Sandpiper: 7576 molting adults on 6 August. The most
abundant shorebird. 

Pectoral Sandpiper: 1584 adults (not molting) on 6 August.

Dunlin: 87 adults on 5 August not yet showing signs of molt.

Short-billed Dowitcher: 15 juveniles on 6 August. 

Wilson's Snipe: 11 on 6 August. Flushed while walking.

Wilson's Phalarope: 1 juvenile on 4 and 5 August.

Red-necked Phalarope: 1 on 3 August, 2 on 4th, 1 adult on 6th.

OTHER BIRDS: American White Pelican, 126 on 1 August. This pelican is
expanding eastward as a breeder and only recently have numbers occurred
on James Bay. Northern Harrier, 2 juveniles on 5 and 6 August. Northern
Goshawk, 1 juvenile on 1 and 3 August, 1 adult on 6th. Merlin, 5 are now
hunting shorebirds, likely the adults and juveniles of the local nesting
pair. Yellow Rails heard daily. Little Gull, Don Sutherland on 2 August
watched an adult feeding a begging juvenile suggesting nearby nesting, 2
juvenile Little Gulls on 3 August. The main breeding area of Little
Gulls in North America is likely the Hudson Bay Lowlands between James
Bay and Churchill, Manitoba. Bonaparte's Gull, both adults and juveniles
noted, many adults are in wing molt. This suggests that an unknown
number of adult Bonaparte's undergo prebasic molt in northern Ontario.
There is usually an influx of adult Bonaparte's Gulls in November on the
Niagara River associated with strong cold fronts. Perhaps some these
birds come from northern stopover lakes with abundant minnows such as
Lake Abitibi and Lake Nipissing. Adult Bonaparte's molt and stay in
large numbers to freeze-up on Lake Simcoe in those years that minnows,
particularly Emerald Shiners, are abundant. Arctic Tern, 1 juvenile on 6
August. Arctic Tern greatly outnumbers Common Tern on southern James
Bay. 15 species of warblers near camp with many still feeding young
recently out of the nest. Le Conte's and Nelson's Sparrows seen daily.
White-winged Crossbill, seen and heard daily with high of 53 on 4 July,
some are singing indicating probable nesting, good cone crop on spruce
in area. Common Redpolls heard and seen regularly. 

MAMMALS: A Ringed or Harbor Seal was seen "hauled out" at the tip of
Longridge Point. Caribou on 6 July. River Otter on 5 July. A young
Snowshoe Hare frequenting camp hasn't been seen since loud screaming was
heard one night - Great Horned Owl? Lynx?

BUTTERFLIES: New species since the last report are Long Dash Skipper and
Clouded Sulphur.

Map shows the Canadian Arctic is mainly free of ice and snow. It also
shows James Bay reaching deep into central Canada.

Photo of Longridge Point extending 7 km into James Bay

Acknowledgements: I thank Mark Cranford, Fletcher Smith and Alan
Wormington for information.

Jean will call again in a week and I'll post another update.

Ron Pittaway
Minden, Ontario

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