James Bay Longridge Point Shorebird Reports - Page 5


Below are four reports posted to Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs by Ron Pittaway.


James Bay Shorebird Report #1

Posted 7 August 2012

This is Jean Iron's first report by satellite phone for the period 30 July to 5 August 2012 for Longridge Point and Little Piskwamish Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay in Ontario. Also included are selected observations from Chickney Channel. See map link below. Surveys are under the direction of Christian Friis of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). These surveys are important because many shorebird species are declining and some such as the rufa subspecies of the Red Knot are endangered and the East Atlantic population of the Whimbrel has declined 50% in recent decades. The crew comprises Jean Iron (lead), Barb Charlton, Deborah Cramer (writing book on knots), Andrew Keaveney, Ian Sturdee and Josh Vandermeulen. Observations refer to Longridge except where noted. Usually only the maximum count for each species is reported below.

RED KNOT: The estimated spring population in 2012 of eastern rufa Red Knots was 30,000 birds. About 26,000 stopped (more than recent years) at Delaware Bay because Horseshoe Crab eggs were abundant this year. Knots departed in excellent shape for the breeding grounds. However, reports suggest knots had a poor breeding season because of cold weather. Failed breeders probably left the Arctic early with perhaps fewer stopping at James Bay this summer.

For example, high counts were 910 molting adults on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish and only 598 on 2 Aug at Longridge. No knots recorded on 4 Aug at Longridge. It will be interesting to see if another wave of adult knots arrives. The survey at Chickney Channel indicates very little use of that area by knots. The survey at Longridge continues to 15 September so the number of juveniles can be assessed. 

MARBLED GODWIT: One at Little Piskwamish on 1 Aug. A small isolated breeding population occurs on the west and south coast of James Bay and on Akimiski Island (Nunavut). Up to 1200 adult Marbled Godwits were staging in late July at Chickney Channel (fide Don Sutherland) which is the northern part of the Albany River estuary. Flocks of 75 - 150 calling birds were seen spiraling up several 100 metres and then flying southwest, presumably to the wintering grounds in the Gulf of California where birds from Akimiski Island are known to winter. The previous high count of Marbled Godwits was a flock of 400 - 500 on the 30 July 2006 at the southeast corner of Akimisiki Island observed by Ken Ross (CWS) and Ken Abraham (OMNR). Prior to 2006, Ken Abraham's largest flock was 50 birds. A search of the literature found no historical high counts suggesting a recent population increase on James Bay, perhaps due to a warming climate.

PEEPS: Don Sutherland reports a peak of >80,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers in July at Chickney Channel. Andrew Keaveney, Ian Sturdee and Josh Vandermeulen had a high of 20,000 peeps, mostly White-rumped and Semipalmated Sandpipers, at Little Piskwamish between 30 July and 3 August.

OTHER SHOREBIRDS: Black-bellied Plover, 59 on 3 Aug; American Golden-Plover, 1 adult on 3 Aug; Semipalmated Plover, 314 adults on 2 Aug; Killdeer, 42 on 3 Aug including several pairs with chicks; Spotted Sandpiper, 1 on 3 Aug; Solitary Sandpiper, 3 at Little Piskwamish on 2 Aug; Greater Yellowlegs, 212 (70% ad) on 3 Aug; Lesser Yellowlegs, 124 (40% ad) on 3 Aug; Whimbrel, 3 on 3 Aug; Hudsonian Godwit, 327 molting adults (eastern population stages in James Bay); Ruddy Turnstone, 688 adults on 3 Aug; Sanderling, 230 molting and fading adults on 2 Aug; Semipalmated Sandpiper, 83 (1 ad) on 2 Aug is a very low number; Least Sandpiper, 90 mostly juveniles on 31 July; White-rumped Sandpiper, 2290 molting adults on 3 Aug; Pectoral Sandpiper, 17 non-molting adults 2 Aug; Dunlin, 19 adults on 3 Aug; Stilt Sandpiper, 1 on 31 July at Little Piskwamish; Short-billed Dowitcher, 1 juvenile on 5 Aug; Wilson's Snipe, 2 on 1 Aug; Red-necked Phalarope, adult male on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish.

BLACK GUILLEMOT: Best bird was a Black Guillemot in breeding plumage found by Barb Charlton on 5 August resting on a rock about 8 km north of Longridge camp. 

YELLOW RAIL: Yellow Rails along the James Bay coast inhabit grass/sedge marshes above the normal high tide zone (supratidal) where the substrate is waterlogged. Yellow Rails were almost absent last summer (2011) because of dry marshes where they were common in 2010. Marshes this summer are still relatively dry with only one heard ticking at Longridge on Aug 4 and another at Little Piskwamish. However, supratidal marshes are wetter at Chickney Channel (Albany River estuary) where many Yellow Rails were heard in July fide Don Sutherland. Yellow Rail and Nelson's Sparrow are closely associated species in southern James Bay marshes.

OTHER BIRDS: Brant, 1 with Canada Geese on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish; Canada Goose, 310 on 31 July included a Canada x barnyard hybrid. This suggests that these geese were molt migrants (subspecies maxima) from southern Ontario or the northern states. Redhead, 34 molting males on 31 July at Little Piskwamish; Surf Scoter, 2 on 4 Aug; Black Scoter, 50 mostly molting males on 4 Aug;  Common Goldeneye, 100 mostly molting males on 4 Aug.

American White Pelican, 38 on 31 July; Osprey, 1 seen regularly carrying fish inland to a presumed nest with young; Northern Harrier, 2 females seen regularly; Northern Goshawk, 1 adult on 1 Aug briefly chased shorebirds at Little Piskwamish; American Kestrel, 1 on 5 Aug; Merlin, 1 on 5 Aug; Ruffed Grouse, adult with 3 chicks on 4 Aug; Sora, 1 on 31 July at Little Piskwamish; Sandhill Crane, 69 on 5 Aug; Little Gull, 2 on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish; Bonaparte's Gull, 905 mostly adults and 4-5 juveniles on 3 Aug; Snowy Owl (unusual in summer), 1 on 3 Aug; Great Horned Owl, 1 heard hooting on 2 and 3 Aug at Little Piskwamish; Belted Kingfisher, 2 on 5 Aug.

Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1 on 5 Aug;  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, 3 on 5 Aug; Eastern Kingbird, 2 on 5 Aug; Gray Jay, up to 3 around camp; Tree Swallow, 14 on 1 Aug; Boreal Chickadee, every day around camp, 5 (family group) on 5 Aug; Bohemian Waxwing, 1 on 2 Aug at Little Piskwamish; European Starling, 485 on 3 Aug and flocks also seen at Little Pishwamish. Their brownish coloration suggests dispersing juvenile starlings from unknown locations.

Clay-colored Sparrow, 4 on 5 Aug (breeding population in scrub zone along coast); Le Conte's Sparrow, 4 on 5 Aug; Nelson's Sparrow, 4 on 5 Aug; Common Grackle, 4 on 5 Aug; Red Crossbill, 16 on 4 Aug; White-winged Crossbill, 95 on 1 Aug; Common Redpoll, 32 on 1 Aug. 

MAMMALS: Polar Bears are very rare in southern James Bay and not expected.

Three Black Bears are regular but by keeping a clean camp the crew hopes to avoid problems. Northern Flying Squirrel, 1 on 1 Aug at Little Piskwamish; Bat sp., 1 on 30 July and 2 on 3 Aug. Jumping Mouse sp., 1 on 1 Aug.

BUTTERFLIES: Best butterfly was a BUCKEYE found and photographed on 5 August by Andrew Keaveney. This may be the most northerly record in Canada. Seven Bronze Coppers on the 5 August. Orange Sulphur is the commonest butterfly.

Pink-edged Sulphur, Painted Lady and Mourning Cloak also recorded. 

Map and photo show Longridge and southern James Bay locations.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The Cree First Nations gratefully rent their hunt camps for the surveys. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) provides helicopter transport and staff house accommodation while crews are in Moosonee. Rod Brook, Kim Bennett and Sarah Hagey of OMNR provide logistical support. I especially thank Don Sutherland of the Natural Heritage Information Centre for information about Chickney Channel. Jean thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance allowing her to make satellite phone calls to me so timely reports are available on Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs.

Watch for report #2 in one week.

Ron Pittaway

Minden, Ontario


James Bay Shorebird Report #2

Posted 16 August 2012

This is Jean Iron's second report for the period 6 to 15 August 2012 by satellite phone from Longridge Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay in Ontario. See location in map link below. The crew comprised Jean Iron (lead), Barb Charlton, Deborah Cramer, Andrew Keaveney, Ian Sturdee and Josh Vandermeulen. The surveys are a joint venture of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR).

SHOREBIRDS: 25 shorebird species recorded to date. Every day there are proportionately more juveniles in the flocks of most (not all) species.

Overall shorebird numbers, including knots, are considerably lower at Longridge than for the same period in previous years perhaps reflecting a below average nesting season. Normally only high counts for the period are listed below.

Black-bellied Plover: 128 adults on 14 Aug and small flocks of high flying adults calling as they moved south following the coast.

American Golden-Plover: 1 adult 8-12 Aug.

Semipalmated Plover: 139 adults on 14 Aug, first juvenile on 12 Aug.

Killdeer, 34 on 12 Aug.

Spotted Sandpiper: 4 juveniles 8 Aug.

Solitary Sandpiper: 1 on 13 Aug.

Greater Yellowlegs: 167 (50% adults) on 10 Aug, also high flying birds calling as they moved south following the coast.

Lesser Yellowlegs: 104 (mostly juveniles) on 7 Aug, and high flying birds calling as they flew south following the coast.

Whimbrel: 8 on 12 Aug, first 3 juveniles on 9 Aug.

Hudsonian Godwit: 6 on 9 Aug calling as they flew south following the coast.

Marbled Godwit: 2 juveniles on 13 Aug. The most recently published estimate of the James Bay population is "about 1500 birds" in the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario (2007).

Hudsonian Godwit: 305 molting adults on 7 Aug.

Ruddy Turnstone: 276 adults on 7 Aug, first 2 juveniles on 14 Aug.

RED KNOT: Very few knots compared to previous years. The hoped for second wave of adults did not arrive. High count was 66 adults on 7 Aug. Only 2 (1 with flag) on 10 Aug. None on 9 and 11 Aug. First juvenile (1) and adult (1) on 12 Aug. Longridge was chosen for knot surveys because it was a known stopover where large numbers massed in July and August. Little is known about the juvenile migration of knots on James Bay because previous surveys ended about mid-August. This year surveys will go to mid-September so we'll have better information about the juvenile migration of shorebirds using southern James Bay.

Sanderling: 25 mainly molting adults on the 14 Aug, first juveniles (3) on 10 Aug.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: 2100 on 7 Aug. Mostly juveniles on 14th.

Least Sandpiper: 218 mostly juveniles on 12 Aug.

White-rumped Sandpiper: 7000 molting adults on 7 Aug.

Baird's Sandpiper: 2 on 11 August included both an adult and juvenile together, first juvenile on 7 Aug, adult on 12 Aug.

Pectoral Sandpiper: 91 adults (no sign of molt) plus first juvenile on 11 Aug.

Dunlin: 97 adults still mostly in worn breeding plumage on 11 Aug.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: 1 juvenile on 12 Aug by Josh Vandermeulen.

Short-billed Dowitcher: 5 juveniles on 11 and 13 Aug. Short-billed Dowitchers are a rapid migrant inland and rarely gather in large flocks until they reach favoured locations on the Atlantic coast.

Wilson's Snipe: 9 on 14 Aug.

Wilson Phalarope: 1 juvenile on 13 Aug.

Red-necked Phalarope: 1 juvenile on 9 Aug.

ESKIMO CURLEW - Historical Note: The type specimen was taken on James Bay in 1772 at Fort Albany, Ontario. James Bay may have been important for Eskimo Curlews during fall migration. The last confirmed record is a specimen taken on 4 September 1963 in Barbados. There is  an unconfirmed sighting of two at North Point, James Bay, on 15 August 1976. Sadly, the Eskimo Curlew has probably been extinct for almost 50 years.

YELLOW RAIL: 1 last heard on 6 Aug, normally fairly common and heard ticking well into Aug, but apparently almost absent this and last summer because of dry supratidal marshes. See comments in report #1.

OTHER BIRDS: Snow Goose, 34 mostly blue morph birds on 12 Aug. Canada Goose, 1 with white neck collar with black code M5M1. Red-necked Grebe, 1 adult on 6 Aug. Ruffed Grouse, 1 drumming and family group of 5. American White Pelican, 19 on 14 Aug. American Bittern, 2 on 8 Aug. Northern Harrier, 2 juveniles on 10 Aug. Northern Goshawk, 1 juvenile on 7 and 14 Aug. Little Gull, 2 juveniles on 6 Aug, 1 second year bird on 13 Aug and 1-2 adults regularly with Bonaparte's Gulls. Bonaparte's Gull, high counts 1403 on 8 Aug and 1700 on 15th. Common Tern, 19 on 8 Aug. Arctic Tern, 1 adult on 7-8 Aug. Snowy Owl, now in wing molt. Great Horned and Long-eared Owls hooting on 14 August. Common Nighthawk, 1 on 13 and 3 on 14 Aug. Gray Jay, 2 adults and 1 blackish juvenile near camp.

Boreal Chickadee, regularly seen and calling around camp. Rusty Blackbird, 1 on 12 Aug. Red Crossbill, 25 on 8 Aug.  White-winged Crossbill, 200 on 9 Aug with some singing. Le Conte's Sparrow, still singing on 8 Aug. Nelson's Sparrow, still singing on 8 Aug and 1 carrying a fecal sac on 14 Aug.

MAMMALS: Beluga (White Whale), 3 on 11 Aug by Barb Charlton and Josh Vandermeulen. Gray Wolf, good views of one on 8 and 14 Aug. Red Fox, rare dark morph "Silver Fox" on 8 August, all black except for white tip of tail, called Silver Fox because the long guard hairs in winter pelage are tipped pale or silver. A female Black Bear with two cubs are regular around camp.

Red Squirrel storing spruce cones in camp shed for the winter. Red Squirrels and crossbills are competitors for cones.

BUTTERFLIES: Three BUCKEYES on 12 Aug and 1 on 10 Aug. New butterflies since the last report are Northern Spring Azure, Western White, Clouded Sulphur, Red Admiral, Northern Crescent, Atlantis Fritillary and Great Spangled Fritillary fide Andrew Keaveney, Josh Vandermeulen and Barb Charlton.

ODONATES: Black Meadowhawk, Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, Spot-winged Glider, Wandering Glider and Sphagnum Sprite fide Andrew Keaveney, Josh Vandermeulen and Barb Charlton.

MAP showing Longridge Point and southern James Bay http://www.jeaniron.ca/2012/jamesbay/map.htm

LITERATURE CITED: Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario http://www.birdsontario.org/atlas/index.jsp

Crews switched over yesterday and today but Jean and Barb are staying. The new crew will be listed in report #3 in about a week.

 Ron Pittaway

Minden, Ontario


James Bay Shorebird Report #3

Posted 24 August 2012

Jean Iron's third report for the period 17 - 23 August 2012 from Longridge Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay in Ontario. See map link below.

Surveys are a cooperative effort of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR).

The new crew comprises Mark Peck (lead), Barb Charlton, Nancy Coston (Moose Cree First Nation), Mark Dodds, Donnell Gasbarrini, Jean Iron, Shannon Page (OMNR), Minnie Sutherland (Moose Cree First Nation), Ross Trapper (Moose Cree First Nation) and Ross Wood. Mark, Mark, Donnell and Shannon spent their first 5 days at Little Piskwamish before walking to base camp at Longridge.

 JAMES BAY MIGRATION ROUTE: The migration route for many shorebirds departing James Bay is southeast to the Atlantic coast without much stopping in the interior because of limited habitat.

SHOREBIRD FOODS: Invertebrate sampling is done once per week along a transect from the high tide zone out every 100 m for 1 km following the tide as it ebbs. What are shorebirds eating? Still some unknowns.

RED KNOTS (Longridge): High count of 616 on 19 Aug. 150 on 22 Aug were 50% juveniles. Knots have been moving around a lot and standing in tight flocks making it difficult to see and read flags. Little Piskwamish (next paragraph) normally records higher numbers of knots, but numbers have been lower at both locations this year.

RED KNOTS (Little Piskwamish): Counts mainly on 3 days 17 - 19 Aug. 250 on 17th, 335 (12 flags) on 18th, 950 (50 flags) on 19th included 35% juveniles.

HISTORICAL NOTE: One of the earliest reports of large numbers of knots using western James Bay came in 1942 when ornithologists Cliff Hope and Terry Shortt from the ROM saw large migratory flocks of up to 500 birds between 20 - 25 July 1942 near Little Piskwamish (Auk 61:574, 1944).

SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: Observations refer to Longridge unless noted.

Surveys revolve around high tides when shorebirds are more concentrated and roosting. As the tide advances shorebirds are pushed ahead of the flow and as it ebbs fresh feeding habitat is exposed. Peeps especially follow the ebbing line. Usually only the high count day for the period is reported below.

Black-bellied Plover: 212 adults in various stages of molt on 19 Aug. First juveniles should arrive soon.

American Golden-Plover: 13 adults on 21 Aug. Mostly in breeding plumage.

Generally less advanced in prebasic (postbreeding) molt than Black-bellied Plover. First juveniles should arrive soon.

Semipalmated Plover: 140 mostly juveniles on 23 July.

Killdeer: 21 on 17 Aug, both adults and juveniles.

Spotted Sandpiper: 2 juveniles on 22 Aug, occasional adult still being seen.

Greater Yellowlegs: 477 on 19 Aug, 50% were adults in wing molt.

Lesser Yellowlegs: 70 on 22 Aug, almost all juveniles.

Whimbrel: 20 on 23 Aug, mainly juveniles.

Hudsonian Godwit: 1975 molting adults on 19 Aug, flocks in Vs giving "godwit" calls as they move south. First juvenile on 20th.

Ruddy Turnstone: 190 on 20 Aug, 10% juveniles.

Sanderling: 134 on 20 Aug, mostly adults.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: 1025 on 23 Aug, virtually 100% juveniles.

Least Sandpiper: 153 juveniles on 21 Aug.

White-rumped Sandpiper: 28,000 molting adults at Little Piskwamish on 19 Aug and 10,288 adults on 21st at Longridge. Juveniles migrate later.

Baird's Sandpiper: 2 juveniles on 21 and 22 Aug.

Pectoral Sandpiper: 301 on 21 Aug, mostly adults.

Dunlin: 1000 at Little Piskwamish on 19 Aug. 230 adults at Longridge on 22 Aug still mainly in breeding plumage.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: 6 juveniles on 19 Aug.

Short-billed Dowitcher: 4 juveniles on 21 Aug.

Red-necked Phalarope: 6 at Little Piskwamish on 19 Aug and 2 juveniles at Longridge on 20th.

LAUGHING GULL: Probably first record for James Bay. One molting into second winter plumage found by Ross Wood on 17 Aug and also seen by Barb Charlton and Jean Iron; seen again on 20th.

OTHER BIRDS: Mainly new observations. Black Scoter, 1101 molting adult males on 21 Aug. Northern Harrier, 6 on 21 Aug. Sharp-shinned Hawk, juvenile on 21 Aug. Red-tailed Hawk, adult on 21 Aug. Rough-legged Hawk, 1 on 19 Aug.

Peregrine Falcon, adult on 19 Aug. Sandhill Crane, 135 on 19 Aug at Little Piskwamish. Bonaparte's Gull, 1500 mostly adults on 22 Aug, now mainly in basic plumage but wing and tail molt not completed; southern James Bay is a staging/molting area for a large number of adult Bonaparte's Gulls. Great Black-backed Gull, juvenile on 21 Aug. Caspian Tern, 8 adults on 19 Aug, no juveniles. Black Tern, juvenile on 20 and 22 Aug. Common Tern, 44 on 21 Aug, no Arctic Terns. Great Horned Owl, hooting regularly at night around camp.

Snowy Owl, one still at tip of Longridge on 23 Aug. Long-eared Owl, heard near camp; 2 on 20 Aug hunting over an open area in the twilight.

Black-backed Woodpecker, 1 on 21 Aug.  Hermit Thrush, 1 on 21 Aug. European Starling, 1000 at Little Piskwamish. American Pipit, 1 on 21 Aug.

Orange-crowned Warbler, 1 on 20 Aug.

MAMMALS: Gray Wolf on 17 Aug and Striped Skunk on 17th at Little Piskwamish.

MOON JELLYFISH: Large die-off of hundreds washing ashore 18-20 Aug. Some the size of a dinner plate. These are natural die-offs and part of the annual reproductive cycle.

Map showing Longridge Point and southern James Bay http://www.jeaniron.ca/2012/jamesbay/map.htm

Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The crew thank OMNR staff Ken Abraham, Kim Bennett, Rod Brook and Sarah Hagey for logistical support. Jean thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance allowing her to make satellite phone calls so timely reports are available on the Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs.

Report #4 will be posted with a link to Jean's website photos soon after 2 September when she returns home. 

Ron Pittaway

Minden, Ontario


James Bay Shorebird Report #4

Posted 4 September 2012

This is my fourth and summary report with photos and videos for Longridge Point on the southwestern coast of James Bay in Ontario. Surveys are a cooperative project of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR). Commonest shorebird since the last report on 24 August was the White-rumped Sandpiper with 6402 adults on 27 August and the first juvenile White-rumped was on 28th. A total of 26 species of shorebirds was recorded in August. New birds since the last report #3 are Red-throated Loon; Turkey Vulture, 1 on 28 Aug found by Barb Charlton and 2 on 29th; and a juvenile Sabine's Gull on 30 August found by Ross Wood. A total of 142 bird species was recorded for the period 30 July to 31 August 2012.

Link to photos and videos


Acknowledgements: I thank Christian Friis (CWS) and Mark Peck (ROM) for the opportunity to do fieldwork at Longridge. Ken Abraham (OMNR), Rod Brook (OMNR), Kim Bennett (OMNR) and Sarah Hagey (OMNR) provided logistical support to the camp. I thank Ron Pittaway for posting my reports to the Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs. Ron inspired my love of shorebirds and has encouraged me to volunteer for northern surveys.

Jean Iron

Toronto, Ontario




End of Longridge pages, now return to Page 1