[Ontbirds] James Bay shorebirds -- Chickney Point 31 July - 16 August

Friis,Christian [Ontario] Christian.Friis at ec.gc.ca
Fri Aug 24 10:21:02 EDT 2012

Dear Ontbirders,


This report summarizes the sightings from a crew stationed in the Chickney Point area on the western coast of James Bay from 31 July to 16 August as a part of the Western James Bay Shorebird Survey. The Chickney Point camp is the most northerly of the project's three field camps in 2012 and is located just north of Chickney Channel (Albany River) roughly 45 km directly south of Akimiski Island, and about 150 km north-northwest of Moosonee. Extensive mudflats in the region, fuelled with nutrients from the Albany River, its tributaries and the innumerable smaller creeks, provide excellent conditions for staging shorebirds and waterfowl. The extremely shallow gradient shoreline in the area is vegetated by dense tall willow (Salix bebbiana, S. planifolia) thickets, giving way to vast supratidal graminoid meadow-marshes (Carex paleacea, Calamagrostis inexpansa, Juncus balticus) interspersed with low willow thickets, grading finally to brackish and saline tidal marshes (Puccinellia spp., Hippuris tetraphylla, Plantago maritima, Salicornia sp.) dissected by a myriad of small ponds, drainage channels, tidal inlets, and exposed mudflat. The spruce forest begins 5-6 km inland from the high tide line. Previous aerial surveys of this region have shown large concentrations of shorebirds during the fall migration.


Christian Friis (CWS), Mike Burrell (OMNR - Natural Heritage Information Centre), Ken Burrell (volunteer), and Jeanette Goulet (CWS) continued conducting daily shorebird surveys coinciding with high tide at two locations along the coast. This camp closed on 16 August.



Shorebird numbers continued to be impressive! During the two weeks, the overall number of shorebirds exceeded 670,000 (duplicates almost certainly exist) of 23 species. Individuals observed during this time were a mix of adults and juveniles. Numbers and diversity varied substantially with the height and timing of the high tides. Shorebird counts exceeded 100,000 on 1 August, with a daily average of about 42,000.  White-rumped Sandpipers were the most numerous species on most days ranging from 10,850 (low on 8 August) to 28,605 (high on 5 August). Semipalmated Sandpipers were next ranging from 1,400 (low on 9 August) to 68,750 (high on 1 August), and were mostly juveniles during the latter half of the period. There were also impressive numbers of Dunlin ranging from 3,290 (low on 6 August) to 19,850 (high on 3 August). Numbers of godwits were also significant. Marbled Godwit numbers decreased during the period: High of 216 on 6 August; low of 2 on 15 August. Hudsonian Godwits were also numerous with nearly 1,000 observed on most days with a conservative high of 5,088 on 8 August (plus over 2,000 unidentified godwits flocking well to the south of our count areas). Low numbers of Whimbrels were observed as well with a high of 10 on 11 August. High flying flocks of yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers were observed heading southwest on several days, presumably headed toward their wintering grounds.


Other shorebird highlights:

Spotted Sandpiper - 1 on 6 August and 1 on 14 August.

Solitary Sandpiper - 1 on 13 August.

Greater Yellowlegs continued to be abundant in the small tidal ponds with high counts of 713  (5 August).

Lesser Yellowlegs were observed in lower numbers (around the 30 mark for most of the period) with a high count of 150 (8  August).

168 Red Knots were counted during the period, with a high count of 73 on 5 August; first juvenile on 4 August.

Semipalmated Sandpiper - 1 blue flag (KKV) observed on 4 August (banded this past winter in Brazil).

Least and Pectoral Sandpipers preferred the more inland grassy pools and reached numbers of 407 (8 August) and 442 (4 August), respectively.

Red-necked Phalarope - 1 adult (on 4 August), and single juveniles observed throughout the period.

Wilson's Phalarope - 12 juveniles observed (probably local breeders).


Other sightings of interest:

Snow Goose - numbers continued to build during the period, averaging about 2,000 each day with a high count of 7,000 on 15 August (85% Blue's).

Canada Goose - orange collared individuals observed most days (part of a MNR project), with a high of 6 on x August.

Blue-winged Teal - high count of 8 on 8 August.

Redhead - Observed each day from 2 to 7 August. High count of 42 individuals 4 August.

Northern Shoveler - observed most days. 

American White Pelican - present on most days with a high of 72 on 2 August when flocks were taking advantage of thermals and appeared to be migrating south.

American Bittern - 2 present near camp every day.

Great Blue Heron - high of 5 on 13 August.

Northern Harrier - most abundant raptor in the area with a high of 11 on 8 August.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1 observed on a power line pole to the northwest of camp on 13 August.

American Kestrel - 1 observed 14 August.

Yellow Rail - singing had ceased by 13 August -high of 5 on 11 August.

Virginia Rail - one singing male around camp heard sporadically during the period (last on 14 August). One of the most northerly records in the province.

Northern Shrike - 1 juvenile observed around camp 2 August.

Barn Swallow - one on 31 July and 1 August, and 2 on 8 August.

Swainson's Thrush - fledgling observed around camp.

LeConte's Sparrow - vocalisations decreased over the period - conservative high of x on date.

Nelson's Sparrow - vocalisations decreased over the period - conservative high of x on date.

Fox Sparrow - still singing near camp 15 August.

Red Crossbill - single male flying over camp on August 13.

Purple Finch - singles on 14 and 15 August.

Pine Siskin - 10 on 1 August, coming in off the bay; singles on 5, 6, 13, and 15 August.


Migrant Passerines: Philadelphia Vireo, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-White Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Cape May Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Western Palm Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Lincoln's Sparrow.


Mammals: Gray Wolf observed roaming the tide line on date. River Otter and kit observed in the creek by camp date. No other direct observations, but evidence of Black Bear, Red Fox, Striped Skunk, and Weasel sp.


Butterflies and Dragonflies: Neither group was abundantly represented although numbers of individuals generally increased toward the end of the month. Butterfly and odonate species observed/documented during the period included Mustard White, Orange Sulphur (abundant), Northern Crescent, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Mourning Cloak, White Admiral, Viceroy, and Milbert's Tortoiseshell; and Lake, Variable (Lineate subspecies), Sedge and Zigzag darners, and Cherry-faced  and Black meadowhawks (both abundant).


Amphibians: Boreal Chorus Frog, Wood Frog, and American 'Hudson Bay' Toad.




The Western James Bay Shorebird Survey is a cooperative effort spearheaded by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) also provides helicopter transport to and from field camps and accommodations in the staff house while crews are in Moosonee. Thanks to Ken Abraham, Rod Brook, Sarah Hagey, and Kim Bennett of OMNR for providing logistical support. Additional support for the Chickney Channel expedition was provided by Bird Studies Canada. Many thanks to Ron Pittaway for providing some details in his previous report from Jean Iron on James Bay shorebirds.

Christian A. Friis
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
4905 Dufferin St. Toronto ON M3H 5T4
christian.friis at ec.gc.ca
Telephone 416.739.4908
Mobile 647.882.6097
Facsimile 416.739.5845
Government of Canada
Website www.ec.gc.ca/mbc-com

Christian A. Friis
Service canadien de la faune
Environnement Canada
4905, rue Dufferin Toronto ON M3H 5T4
christian.friis at ec.gc.ca
Téléphone 416.739.4908
Cellulaire 647.882.6097
Télécopieur 416.739.5845
Gouvernement du Canada
Site Web www.ec.gc.ca/mbc-com

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