Longridge Point Shorebird Reports -
Below are four reports posted
to Ontbirds and Shorebirds listservs by Ron Pittaway.
Bay Shorebird Report #1
Posted 7 August
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
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
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.
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.
Bay Shorebird Report #2
Posted 16 August
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
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
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
Hudsonian Godwit: 305 molting adults on
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
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
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
LITERATURE CITED: Atlas of the Breeding
Birds of Ontario
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.
Bay Shorebird Report #3
Posted 24 August
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
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
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
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
Whimbrel: 20 on 23 Aug, mainly
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%
Sanderling: 134 on 20 Aug, mostly
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 1025 on 23 Aug,
virtually 100% juveniles.
Least Sandpiper: 153 juveniles on 21
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
Pectoral Sandpiper: 301 on 21 Aug,
Dunlin: 1000 at Little Piskwamish on 19
Aug. 230 adults at Longridge on 22 Aug still mainly in breeding
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: 6 juveniles on
Short-billed Dowitcher: 4 juveniles on
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
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
Map showing Longridge Point and southern
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.
Bay Shorebird Report #4
Posted 4 September
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
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.
End of Longridge pages, now return to Page 1