[CT Birds] Fwd: [SHOREBIRDS] James Bay Shorebird Report #4

semismart9 at aol.com semismart9 at aol.com
Thu Aug 11 22:03:10 EDT 2011

-----Original Message-----
From: Jean Iron <jeaniron at SYMPATICO.CA>
Sent: Thu, Aug 11, 2011 7:05 pm
Subject: [SHOREBIRDS] James Bay Shorebird Report #4

This is Jean Iron’s fourth report by satellite phone for the period 4-10
ugust 2011 from North Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay,
ntario. This report also includes sightings from nearby Longridge Point
ide Mark Peck and Little Piskwamish Point fide Don Sutherland. Surveys are
 partnership of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Ontario Ministry of Natural
esources (OMNR), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Moose Cree First
ation (MCFN). Minnie Sutherland from Moose Factory (MCFN) joined the North
oint crew on Sunday 6 August. The Longridge crew is Mark Peck (ROM), Roy
ohn, Emily Rondel and Antonio Coral. The Little Piskwamish crew is Don
utherland (OMNR), Doug McRae, Barb Charlton and Ron Ridout. The North Point
rew is Mike McMurtry (OMNR), Jean Iron, Aus Taverner and Minnie Sutherland
JAMES BAY TO ATLANTIC COAST ROUTE: In spring most arctic shorebirds migrate
orth rapidly through the centre of the continent largely west of James Bay.
n fall most shorebirds move more easterly towards the Atlantic Coast. This
esults in much larger numbers using James Bay (probably several million
irds) during southbound migration, where the broad tidal flats and
ntertidal marshes provide an abundance of small invertebrates.
olour-marking indicates that most (not all) southbound shorebirds departing
ames Bay go east to southeast towards the Atlantic Coast, not  through the
nterior of the continent. One notable exception is the James Bay population
f Marbled Godwits whose wintering grounds until recently were speculated to
e the south Atlantic Coast of the United States, which is the closest
intering area. American researchers Bridget Olson (USFWS) and Adrian Farmer
USGS) fitted Marbled Godwits with satellite transmitters on Akimiski
sland, Nunavut in 2007 and 2008 and the godwits went southwest to winter at
he Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
uoting Chuck Berry “You Never Can Tell”.
SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: 27 species to date. Turnover from adults to
uveniles of some species (not all) is occurring rapidly. Counts are done at
igh tide. Usually only high count day is listed. Location of counts is
orth Point unless stated otherwise.
Black-bellied Plover: 7 on 6-7 Aug at North Point and 13 on 7th at Little
American Golden-Plover: 1 adult in full alternate plumage on 5th at North
oint and 1 molting adult on 9th at Little Piskwamish.
Semipalmated Plover: 49 on 6th at North Point and 97 on 3rd at Little
iskwamish. No juveniles.
Killdeer, 1-2 daily including half grown young at Little Piskwamish.
Spotted Sandpiper, 13 on 4th at Little Piskwamish.
Solitary Sandpiper, 12 on 6th at Little Piskwamish.
Greater Yellowlegs: 167 on plumage on 7th at North Point (50% juveniles) and
95 on 5th at Little Piskwamish.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 179 on 5th at North Point (70% juveniles) and 536 mostly
uveniles on 6th at Little Piskwamish.
Yellowlegs Migration: Flocks of both species lift off in the evening with
uch calling and form Vs high overhead flying south into the night sky.
Whimbrel: 8 on 5th at North Point.
Hudsonian Godwit: 158 molting adults on 6th at North Point and 322 on 9th at
ittle Piskwamish.
Marbled Godwit, 1 adult male defending territory on 9th at North Point, its
ehaviour suggested young hidden in grass. 1 on 8th at Little Piskwamish.
Ruddy Turnstone: 37 adults on 5th at North Point and 37 on 7th at Little
RED KNOT: Of the three surveys sites to date Little Piskwamish has had the
ighest one day count (4990 on 1 Aug) followed by Longridge (1400 on 6 Aug)
ith smaller numbers at North Point (220 on 2 Aug). High counts for this
eriod for Little Piskwamish (2,300 on 7th), Longridge (1400 6 Aug) and
orth Point (150 on 7th).  At Delaware Bay, USA, recent spring counts range
rom 15,000 to 24,000. This suggests that a high proportion of the
opulation stages in southwestern James Bay. Concentration areas are being
apped by GPS. At Longridge as of 9 Aug they have 900 sightings of 230
ifferently marked birds. Celebrity knot TY was back at Longridge on 5 Aug.
t has been at all three sites since first seen on 26 July at North Point.
irst juvenile knot on 9th at Little Piskwamish.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 10,500 on 7th at North Point were almost all adults.
,975 on 6th at Little Piskwamish. Next wave should be mainly juveniles.
Least Sandpiper: 251 on 9th at Little Piskwamish. All juveniles. Leasts and
ectorals are back of the mudflats at ponds in marshes and meadows.
White-rumped Sandpiper: 23,327 on 7th at Little Piskwamish. 12,500 molting
dults on 7th at North Point. This is now the commonest shorebird in
outhern James Bay.
Baird’s Sandpiper: 1 juvenile on 8th at Longridge, 1 juvenile on 9th at
ittle Piskwamish.
Roosting Peeps: At North Point the thousands of Semipalmated Sandpipers and
hite-rumped Sandpipers rest and sleep for about three hours twice daily at
igh tide. They gather in tight flocks on grassy and gravel areas just above
he high tide line. Jean describes the scene as very peaceful as the birds
leep with the chittering of some birds as they run around adjusting
hemselves. The roost area is quite distant from the forest edge. Luckily,
he local Merlin hunts closer to the trees. When the peep flocks fly they
wirl and twist in unison with much chittering and the sound of their wings
ills the air.
Pectoral Sandpiper: 481 non-molting adults on 6th at North Point. 415 on 7th
t Little Piskwamish. Most in marsh ponds back from the coast.
Dunlin (subspecies hudsonia): 368 adults on 6th showing little or no signs
f molting. This is interesting for the date because adult Dunlins undergo a
omplete prebasic molt at James Bay before migration. Perhaps they fatten
irst before beginning to molt. Other shorebirds such as White-rumped
andpipers are actively molting and fattening, but they undergo only a body
olt while delaying molt of their flight feathers (wings/tail) until they
each the wintering grounds. First juvenile Dunlin on 8 Aug at Longridge.
uveniles also stage and molt at James Bay.
Short-billed Dowitcher: 1 late adult on 6th at North Point. First juvenile
n 8th at Longridge. 5 juveniles at Little Piskwamish.
Wilson’s Snipe: 13 on 6th at Little Piskwamish.
Wilson’s Phalarope: 1 fresh juvenile on 6th at North Point, 5 juveniles on
th at Longridge. This phalarope breeds in small numbers in the wide
rairie-like coastal marshes and meadows of southern James Bay.
Red-necked Phalarope: 1 juvenile on 4th at North Point and 1 (age?) on 9th
t Little Piskwamish.
YELLOW RAIL: 1-2 ticking regularly at Little Piskwamish. Very low number.
one at North Point and Longridge Point.
OTHER BIRDS: In rough checklist order, if location not stated assume North
oint: Canada Goose, 1300 on 5th appeared to be all subspecies maxima,
resumably molt migrants from farther south summering and molting on James
nd Hudson Bays where they often mingle with breeding subspecies interior.
innie Sutherland (MCFN) told Jean about the special relationship the Cree
ave with the geese. Black Scoter, hundreds daily of mostly molting males
ffshore at Little Piskwamish. American White Pelican, 61 on 8th. Northern
oshawk, 2 at Little Piskwamish included a juvenile on 6th chasing
horebirds but obviously inexperienced and an adult goshawk on 9th being
obbed by adult Northern Shrike. American Kestrel, 1 on 7th at Little
iskwamish. Sandhill Crane, 24 on 5th. Little Gull, 1 adult on 4th at Little
iskwamish, 1 juvenile on 7th at Longridge. Bonaparte’s Gull, 138 on 6th at
ittle Piskwamish and 23 on 7th at North Point were a mix of three age
lasses – most were adults, some juveniles and a few second years. Almost
ll second year birds summer well south of the breeding grounds. Bonaparte’s
est in spruce trees adjacent muskeg ponds and lakes. Common Tern, 7 on 4th
t North Point and 5 on 6th at Little Piskwamish. Arctic Tern, 1 on 5th at
orth Point. Great Horned Owl (gray subspecies scalariventris in northern
ntario), two duetting regularly at Little Piskwamish. Northern
aw-whet-Owl, 1 singing in early morning on 7th at Little Piskwamish is near
orthern edge of breeding range, singing in August is very unusual. Common
ighthawk, 1 on 3rd at Little Piskwamish, 3 on 7th at Longridge. Olive-sided
lycatcher, 1 on 8th at Little Piskwamish and 1 on 9th at North Point. Gray
ay, pair with a dark juvenile around camp, usually one young bird stays
ith the adults for a year, juveniles are molting now or soon into formative
lumage which is almost identical to the adult. Swallow migration at Little
iskwamish: Tree Swallow, 101 on 5th, Bank Swallow, 4 on 5th, Cliff Swallow,
 on 7th, Barn Swallow, 1 on 7th. MARSH WREN, 1 singing in cattail marsh at
ittle Piskwamish, Godfrey (1986) in the Birds of Canada shows breeding and
ames (ROM 1991) reports “an isolated small colony” near North Point.
uropean Starling, 80 mostly juveniles on 8th at Little Piskwamish, really
dd to see a large flock at a wilderness location. WARBLERS at North Point
n pre-migration flocks in Balsam Poplars included Tennessee, Orange-crowned
this species migrates much later than other warblers), female  Cape May
ith 4 juveniles, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Palm, Black-and-white, American
edstart, Yellow-rumped, etc. Magnolia Warbler, 1 on 8th at Little
iskwamish. Nashville Warbler, 1 on 6th at Little Piskwamish. Connecticut
arbler on 6th giving partial song at Little Piskwamish, Nancy Wilson and
oug McRae (OMNR Report 1993) reported that Connecticuts were common in fens
ith Tamaracks near Moosonee. Sparrows: Le Conte’s last heard 6th, Nelson’s
2 heard 10th), Clay-colored and Savannah have stopped singing recently,
hite-throated Sparrows still singing. Rusty Blackbird, 1 on 8th. Common
rackle, 3 on 3rd at Little Piskwamish. Purple Finch, at least 1 daily at
ittle Piskwamish. White-winged Crossbill, 24 on 7th at North Point, 150 on
th at Little Piskwamish, crossbills are moving south daily there even
hough White Spruce and Tamarack have excellent cone crops.
MAMMALS: Belugas, 5 at North Point on 3 Aug. A unidentified bat on 5th at
orth Point flying around camp at dusk. Woodland Caribou and Moose tracks at
ittle Piskwamish. Large male Black Bear scavenging a Beluga carcass at
ittle Piskwamish. Red-backed Voles at Little Piskwamish camp, this is a
orest vole whereas Meadow Vole is a field vole. No reports of Meadow Voles
s reflected in only 2 sightings of Northern Harriers at North Point and
bsence of Short-eared Owls at all 3 survey locations.
BUTTERFLIES: Western White (photos) at North Point on 6-8 Aug with high of 6
n 8th is only new butterfly since the last report. Western Whites also at
ittle Piskwamish. Bronze Copper, 6 nectaring and included a pair copulating
n Mackenzie’s Water Hemlock (Cicuta virosa/mackenzieana) at North Point.
he host plants (genus Rumex) are found along the coast.
AMPHIBIANS: Frogs and toads were inconspicuous this summer because it was
ry. After a good rain recently the crew at North Point heard Boreal Chorus
rogs and Spring Peepers and saw American Toads.
FISH: Three-spined Stickleback. Mike McMurtry (OMNR) noted that there was a
igh mortality of this Species Of Concern as intertidal ponds dried this
ulti-purpose inventory. Don Sutherland and Mike McMurtry are with the
atural Heritage Information Centre. The NHIC is part of OMNR involved with
he inventory, monitoring and assessment of provincially rare plants and
nimals such as Red Knot, Yellow Rail and Short-eared Owl. Link to NHIC.
Map showing location of North Point in red. Little Piskwamish Point (not
hown) is midway between North Point and Longridge Point.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Jean thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance
llowing her to make satellite calls so reports are available on the
Survey ends on Sunday 14 August. Jean and I will post a final report #5 and
ink to photos on her website when she returns home.
Ron Pittaway
inden, Ontario

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