This is Jean Iron's second report for
the period 4 - 10 August 2014 from Little Piskwamish Point on the
southwestern coast of James Bay in Ontario. See map link #2 below.
Surveys are conducted under the direction of Christian Friis of the
Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario
Museum (ROM) and their partners the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources (OMNR), Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and Moose Cree
First Nation. The Little Piskwamish crew comprises Mark Peck (crew
leader), James Kennerley from UK, Brendan Kelly from NL, Jean Iron,
Eleanor Zurbrigg, Doug McRae, Lisa Pollock and Hellen Fu. Darrell
Isaac and Jeffrey Isaac from Moose Factory First Nation arrived on
August 5 to assist with the survey.
Two other crews are based at North Point
and Longridge Point.
JAMES BAY: Ontario's coastline of James
Bay measures about 560 kilometres or 350 miles. The west coast is
extremely flat and intersected by several large rivers and many
streams. The southern coast is characterized by long narrow
promontories, wide tidal flats, shoals, sandy bays, extensive
brackish marshes and pools. It's a shorebird paradise of great
SHOREBIRD MIGRATION CHRONOLOGY: Most
(not all) southbound shorebirds migrate in three waves: adult
females first, adult males second, juveniles last.
SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: The maximum
counts and dates for each species are reported below. Reports
pertain to Little Piskwamish at Lat 51.655515 N, Lon -80.57167 W.
THREE HIGHEST TOTAL DAILY COUNTS: 18635
shorebirds on July 31, 15530 on Aug 3 and 13812 on Aug 4.
Black-bellied Plover: 57 molting adults
on Aug 6.
Semipalmated Plover: 60 adults on Aug 6,
1 juvenile on 9th.
Killdeer: 4 adults and 3 juveniles on
Spotted Sandpiper: first juvenile on Aug
5 and 2 juveniles on 8th.
Solitary Sandpiper: 4 adults on Aug 4
and 2 juveniles on 5th.
Greater Yellowlegs: 270 on Aug 6, 75%
juveniles on 9th. Unlike most shorebirds, some Greaters undergo both
body and wing molt at James Bay before continuing migration.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 137 on Aug 6. Almost
all now are juveniles.
Whimbrel: 9 on Aug 3.
Hudsonian Godwit: 167 molting adults on
Aug 4. One red flag OEM from Chile on Aug 5. Another with red flag
JK from Chile on Aug 9. Most adult Hudsonian Godwits molt body
feathers while at James Bay before departing in late Aug and early
Sept with most going nonstop to South America.
Marbled Godwit: 1 juvenile on Aug 7 and
2 juveniles on 8th. The estimated disjunct James Bay population is
2000 birds. Most adults depart in late July. The wintering grounds
of James Bay birds were unknown until recently.
Birds fitted with satellite transmitters
on Akimiski Island in 2007 and 2008 went southwest to winter along
the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) in Mexico. Previously it was
thought that James Bay godwits wintered on the south Atlantic Coast
of the United States, which is much closer to James Bay.
Ruddy Turnstone: 23 on Aug 6.
RED KNOT: Highest daily count was 1670
adults on Aug 6. First 3 juvenile knots on Aug 8. Flag re-sightings
are currently about 1400 so Mark Peck is very happy. Knot numbers
this year are similar to most previous summers.
Mark estimates that about 5000 adult
knots are using Little Piskwamish this summer making it one of the
most important southbound sites for the endangered rufa subspecies
in North America. One knot with a white flag ALH was banded on the
Mingan Archipelago on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in
Quebec. Mingan is the other major southbound staging area for knots
in Eastern Canada, but there is virtually no mixing of birds between
there and James Bay. The knots are fat and in excellent condition.
They will soon fly nonstop to South America. Knots that fail to gain
adequate weight suffer reduced survival.
Sanderling: 4 molting adults on Aug 4.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 7000 on Aug 4.
Very few juveniles to date but increasing. Both adults and juveniles
are being fitted with nano-tags. This peep has declined very
significantly in recent years. See SHOREBIRD CONSERVATION NOTE
Least Sandpiper: 170 on 7th. Almost all
were juveniles. The switchover from adults to juveniles was rapid.
White-rumped Sandpiper: 5900 molting and
fattening adults on Aug 6.
Pectoral Sandpiper: 100 on Aug 8.
Dunlin: Dunlin 800 adults on Aug 8.
Thousands of Dunlins (subspecies hudsonia) stage in James
Bay. Adults undergo a complete (wings/tail/body) prebasic molt and
juveniles undergo a partial (body) preformative molt before both age
classes resume migration about mid-September and later. This is the
reason that North American Dunlins are very rare south of the
subarctic until much later than most other shorebirds.
Stilt Sandpiper: 1 juvenile on 9 Aug.
Short-billed Sandpiper: 1 juvenile 9
Wilson's Phalarope: 1 juvenile on Aug 6
and 9th. Small numbers breed in the vast prairie-like marshes of
Red-necked Phalarope: 4 juveniles on Aug
OTHER BIRDS: Canada Goose, 460 flying
over on Aug 5. American Wigeon, 5 on Aug 4. American Black Duck, 98
on Aug 6. Mallard, 82 on Aug 8. Northern Pintail, 105 on Aug 7.
Green-winged Teal, 56 on Aug 6. Ring-necked Duck, 1 on Aug 6. Scaup
species, 6 on Aug 1. Common Goldeneye, 18 on Aug 6. Hooded
Merganser, 5 on Aug 9. Common Merganser, 2 on Aug 4. Red-breasted
Merganser,1 on Aug 7. Black Scoter, large raft of 4000 mostly
molting males on Aug 5.
Common Loon, 6 on Aug 6. Pied-billed
Grebe, 1 juvenile on Aug 6. American White Pelican, 16 on Aug 4.
American Bittern, 2 on Aug 6. Great Blue Heron, 1 juvenile. Osprey,
4 on Aug 6. Bald Eagle, a few adults and immatures in area. Northern
Goshawk, 2 adults on Aug 5. Merlin, 3 on Aug 6. Yellow Rail, 3 on
Aug 8. Sora, 2 on Aug 5. Sandhill Crane, 28 on Aug 7. Bonaparte's
Gull,631 mostly molting adults, juveniles increasing. Little Gull, 2
molting adults on Aug 10, 1 molting to second winter plumage on Aug
7 and 8.
Great Horned Owl, 1 heard on Aug 7 and
8th. Long-eared Owl, 1 heard on Aug 5 and 6th. Common Raven, 22 on
Aug 5. American Crow, 5 on Aug 6. Black-capped Chickadee, 4 on Aug
3. Boreal Chickadee, 3 on Aug 8. Horned Lark, 1 on Aug 7 and 8th.
Tree Swallow, 66 on Aug 4. Alder Flycatcher, 8 on Aug 4.
Nashville Warbler, 1 on Aug 4. Tennessee
Warbler, 3 on Aug 4. Yellow-rumped Warbler, 80 on Aug 6. Palm
Warbler, 1 on Aug 4. American Redstart, 1 on Aug 9. Common
Yellowthroat, 4 on Aug 3. Wilson's Warbler, 4 on Aug 6. Northern
Waterthrush, 7 on Aug 4. Yellow Warbler, 12 on Aug 4. Savannah
Sparrow, 65 on Aug 7. Le Conte's, 3 on Aug 4 - 7th. Nelson's Sparrow
(daily) with 4 on Aug 8. Fox Sparrow, 1 on Aug 4. Song Sparrow, 40
on Aug 6. Lincoln's Sparrow, 10 on Aug 4. Swamp Sparrow, 13 on Aug
6. Dark-eyed Junco, 2 on Aug 9. Red-winged Blackbird, 200 on Aug 8.
Rusty Blackbird, 1 on Aug 6. White-winged Crossbill, 145 on Aug 1,
105 on Aug 4, 80 on 8th. Common Redpoll, 3 juveniles on Aug 6. Pine
Siskin, 2 on Aug 5.
SHOREBIRD CONSERVATION NOTE: I've copied
the following email from Ken Abraham (emeritus OMNR Research
Scientist) with his permission. "See the article linked below on
tracking Semipalmated Sandpipers with geolocators. Note that the
bird highlighted in the article spent a month (21 July to 22 August
2013) in James Bay on its southern migration and a week (2 June to
10 June 2014) in James Bay on its spring migration. The other
significant (and remarkable, almost unbelievable) finding is that it
flew non-stop for 6 days from James Bay to Brazil (i.e., it did not
go to the Bay of Fundy) which underlines even more the importance of
the James Bay coastline for feeding and energy acquisition. It's not
often we get this kind of information on the conservation importance
of a site before there is an imminent threat of its loss due to some
development. We should make the most of this information in our
quest to get the area designated as a protected area." See link. #1.