[Ontbirds] James Bay Shorebird Report #3

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Wed Aug 3 18:05:48 EDT 2011

This is Jean Iron's third report via satellite phone for the period 26 July
to 2 August 2011 from North Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay in
Ontario. This report also incorporates sightings from Longridge Point and
Little Piskwamish Point. Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
oversees surveys of the endangered rufa subspecies of the Red Knot and
Yellow Rails. Surveys are a partnership of the ROM, Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources (OMNR), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Moose Cree
First Nation. The North Point crew is Mike McMurtry (OMNR), Jean Iron and
Aus Taverner. The Longridge crew is Mark Peck, Roy John, Emily Rondel and
Antonio Coral. The Little Piskwamish crew is Don Sutherland (OMNR), Doug
McRae, Barb Charlton and Ron Ridout. Little Piskwamish is about halfway
between North Point and Longridge. Surveyors will be at all three sites
until 14 August. 

SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: 27 species to date. Juveniles of many species
increasing. The high count day is listed for each species. Sightings refer
to North Point unless stated otherwise.
Black-bellied Plover: 3 on 29 July.

Semipalmated Plover: 83 on 1 August included a banded individual with green
on lower right and metal on lower left. 

Solitary Sandpiper: 4 on 26th at forest ponds at Longridge.
Greater Yellowlegs: 392 on 27th. 
Lesser Yellowlegs: 867 on 27th, half juveniles on 2 August. 
Whimbrel: 1.

Hudsonian Godwit: 327 molting and fattening adults on 27th.
Marbled Godwit: 1 juvenile on 29th. 
Ruddy Turnstone: 52 adults on 29th. 250 adults at Longridge.

RED KNOT: Famous knot TY on orange flag was still at North Point on 29th but
moved about 35 km north to Longridge on 30th. Studies show that many
shorebirds return to preferred local areas from year to year. 4990 on 1 Aug
at Little Piskwamish, 3 with geolocators. 600 on 30th at Longridge with 190
sightings of individually marked birds. Smaller numbers at North Point with
high of 220 on 2 August. The survey period mid July to mid August is timed
to track the maximum number of marked adults. Data from flagged birds will
give approximate ages and ratios of males to females. Researchers and
birders will re-sight birds showing which populations use James Bay and
their migration routes.

Sanderling: 15 molting adults on 29th.

SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER: This is peak adult migration time with 23,000 adults
on 29 July at North Point exceeding the 14,147 on 21st. Southbound numbers
at North Point are probably the largest in North America away from the upper
Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. Both counts were with a combination of high
tides and strong northeast winds concentrating the birds. First 3 juveniles
on 29th. 4,500 on 31 July at Little Piskwamish.
Least Sandpiper: 47 on 29th. Mostly juveniles, but still some adults on 2
White-rumped Sandpiper: Large numbers stage and fatten in southern James
Bay. 7,710 molting adults at North Point on 29th and 9,300 on 1 August at
Little Piskwamish. These large numbers are not seen south of James Bay
indicating that they fly either to eastern Canada where they are common or
more likely most of the James Bay population flies nonstop to South America.

Baird's Sandpiper: 1 on 27 July at Longridge.

Pectoral Sandpiper: 925 adults on 29th.

Dunlin: 265 adults on 29th.

Stilt Sandpiper: 1 adult on 26th at Longridge.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: 1 on 30 July at Longridge fide Mark Peck.
American Woodcock: 1 on 1 Aug at Little Piskwamish. There are nearby records
for Moosonee and Fort Albany.

Wilson's Phalarope: 1 adult on 26th and 30th at Longridge.

Red-necked Phalarope: 1 adult on 30th at Longridge. 

HUDSON BAY SHOREBIRDS: Ken Abraham (OMNR) reports "We worked on the coast
from Shagamu River to the Pen Island area on 27-28 July and observed large
numbers of shorebirds. Of note were several hundred Hudsonian Godwits, and
lots of Pectoral, Semipalmated, White-rumped Sandpipers, Dunlins, both
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (seemed everywhere), Whimbrel and others. It
was particularly nice to see two small flocks of Buff-breasted Sandpipers
(14 in total) on 27 July foraging on berries and insects on a ridge along
the Hudson Bay coast. The location was halfway between the Niskibi River and
the Severn River at N56 16.646 W87 46.922.  Other species included Killdeer,
Semipalmated Plover, Short billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe and Red-necked
Phalarope. Absent from the list were Black-bellied Plover and American

YELLOW RAIL: 1 ticking at Little Piskwamish on 30 July to 1 Aug, but none at
North Point and Longridge because of dry coastal marshes which normally have
a 10-20 cm depth of water. Ken Abraham heard a minimum of 2 Yellow Rails
ticking loudly on 27 July at a freshwater marsh about 10 km inland from the
outlet of the Niskibi River on Hudson Bay. 

OTHER BIRDS: Ken Abraham reports for the Hudson Bay coast of Ontario and
Akimiski Island, Nunavut, in James Bay. "We banded over 3000 adult Canada
Geese and over 5000 goslings, plus 500 adult Lesser Snow Geese and 800
goslings. We continue to be impressed by the number of bald eagles on the
Hudson Bay coast with many (even most) being observed very near brood flocks
of geese. I suspect they have become an increasing factor in the mortality
of both goose species over the past decade. This year there were even
several observations on Akimiski Island during the two weeks of banding in
late July, which is unusual." Black Scoter, 400 molting males off Little
Piskwamish. Double-crested Cormorant, 2 on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish. Great
Blue Heron on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish. Ruffed Grouse drumming on 2 Aug.
American White Pelicans, 71 in supplemental plumage on 2 August. Northern
Harrier, adult female on 31st. Northern Goshawk, adult on 30th by Doug
McRae. Merlin on 30th. Sora on 1 August at Little Piskwamish. Bonaparte's
Gull, 350 on 31st at Longridge. Ring-billed Gull, 2 juveniles on 28th.
Caspian Tern, 3 on 1 Aug at Little Piskwamish. Common Tern, 2 on 2 Aug.
Arctic Tern, 2 on 2 August. Great Horned Owl hooting at Little Piskwamish.
Northern Shrike, adult with 2 brownish juveniles at Longridge. Gray Jays
regular around camp. Swallows migrating south. Tree Swallow, 28 on 28th.
Bank Swallow on 29th and 31st. Cliff Swallow on 29th. Swainson's Thrush with
young. American Robins eating Buffaloberries (Shepherdia canadensis).
European Starling, 65 at Little Piskwamish were unusual.  Cedar Waxwings
eating Buffaloberries. Canada Warbler singing on 1 & 3 Aug at Little
Piskwamish. Chipping Sparrow nest with young at Longridge. Clay-colored
Sparrow nest with young at Longridge. Savannah Sparrow nest with eggs at
Longridge. Savannah Sparrows abundant at North Point. Le Conte's Sparrows
and Nelson's Sparrows (subspecies alterus) still singing. White-throated
Sparrow on 31st eating Buffaloberries. Red-winged Blackbird, 31 on 2 Aug, 36
at Little Piskwamish. Common Grackle on 1 August. White-winged Crossbills,
33 on 29th. Excellent cone crop on White Spruce. Crossbills extracting seeds
from green cones. Some singing suggests they may nest soon as cone crop
ripens. Common Redpoll, 15 on 2 August at Little Piskwamish.

MAMMALS: American Marten on 2 Aug. Beluga (White Whale) 6 on 29 July at
North Point by Doug McRae and Barb Charlton. Two dead Belugas at Longridge.
Cause of death unknown, but possibly individuals trapped in ice late last
fall before they could migrate to leads and polynyas in Hudson Bay where
some Belugas spend the winter. A Black Bear chewed a bar of Sunlight soap at
Longridge; this fragrant yellow soap is an old camp favourite. On the Hudson
Bay coast, Ken Abraham (OMNR) reports "There are a lot of Polar Bears ashore
with several sighted 10-20 km inland in the fens."

HERPTILES: Eastern Gartersnake: 1 on 31 July at Longridge. There are
previous records for southern James Bay. American Toads of the colourful
reddish Hudson Bay population and Wood Frogs are scarce this summer probably
because of the very dry conditions.
BUTTERFLIES: Two additions since last report from Barb Charlton are Common
Branded Skipper and Silver-bordered Fritillary (photos). 

ODONATES: No new species since last report. Fewer dragonflies with the dry
conditions. They are eating Bulldog Flies (Tabanidae) which pleases
surveyors because these flies are aggressive biters.
IMPORTANT NEW PUBLICATION: John Riley of the Nature Conservancy of Canada
(formerly OMNR) has just published "Wetlands of the Hudson Bay Lowland - An
Ontario Overview". A hard copy of this scholarly publication with excellent
habitat photos is available from the author.
John.Riley at natureconservancy.ca

Next update in a week.

Ron Pittaway
Minden, Ontario

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