This is Jean Iron's report via satellite
phone today for the period 19-22 July 2009 from Longridge Point,
which is 60 km north of Moosonee on southern James Bay. Mark Peck of
the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) heads a group six who are
surveying shorebirds with a particular focus on the endangered rufa
subspecies of the Red Knot.
Longridge is an important site for knots
with a one-day estimate of 5,000 in the late 1970s. Mark Peck (ROM)
is a Canadian member of an international team studying knots. The
ROM group is also studying Yellow Rails and they are helping other
researchers collect data on Northern Harriers, Whimbrels, Black
Terns, Short-eared Owls, frogs and toads. Funding for the ROM's Red
Knot Survey came from The Species at Risk Research Fund in Ontario,
which is a partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources and World Wildlife Fund - Canada.
The last several days have been sunny
with temperatures well above normal. Mosquitoes are bad around the
camp which is at the base of the point, but a sea breeze keeps them
in check farther out on the long open peninsula. Moose Flies (genus
Hybomitra) also called Horse Flies and Bulldogs are annoying at
times. They peak in July.
Food Habits: Shorebirds in Hudson and
James Bays feed on "an abundance of the bivalve Macoma balthica, and
in southern James Bay, the gastropod Hydrobia minuta, as well as a
variety of other crustaceans, worms and dipteran larvae" (Ontario
Shorebird Conservation Plan 2003).
Adults and Juveniles: No juvenile
shorebirds observed as of 22 July.
2009 perhaps indicating a late start to
nesting this year due to a cold spring and late snow melt. All birds
mentioned below are adults.
Some species are in various degrees of
prebasic (postbreeding) molt and other species are not molting.
Black-bellied Plover: Molting; 2 on 21
American Golden-Plover: Molting; 1 on 21
Semipalmated Plover: 5 on 19 July, 4/20,
Killdeer: 2 on 19 July, 1/22.
Greater Yellowlegs: Molting; 113 on 19
July, 177/20, 69/21, 314/22.
Lesser Yellowlegs: Molting; 271 on 19
July, 511/20, 391/21, 463/22.
Whimbrel: Not molting; 3 on 19 July,
78/20, 71/21, 136/22.
Hudsonian Godwit: Molting; 102 on 19
July, 261/20, 338/21, 355/22.
Marbled Godwit: 1 on 20 July, 1/21,
Ruddy Turnstone: Not molting; 15 on July
19 July, 13/20, 14/21, 60/22.
Red Knot: Molting; 69 on 19 July,
742/20, 966/21, 975/22. Almost 1,000 knots were seen on two
consecutive days. 90 birds had leg flags with one observed by Mark
Peck that he banded in 2005 on the breeding grounds of Southampton
Island, Nunavut. Yesterday (22 July) Guy Morrison and Ken Ross of
the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) surveyed southern James Bay by
helicopter. They reported good numbers of Red Knots south of
Longridge Point. See also related information under the heading
AERIAL SURVEYS below.
Sanderling: Molting and much faded; 65
on 19 July, 98/20, 22/21, 11/22.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: Recent increase
in numbers; 4,835 on 19 July, 1,869/20, 1,490/21, 872/22. This
species has declined very significantly in recent years.
Least Sandpiper: Not molting; 13 on 19
July, 35/20, 40/21, 20/22.
White-rumped Sandpiper: Molting; 8 on 19
July, 19/20, 7/21, 7/22.
Baird's Sandpiper: 1 on 20 July, 1 on 22
Pectoral Sandpiper: Not molting; 38 on
19 July, 34/20, 41/21, 151/22.
Dunlin: Bright birds in worn alternate
plumage with no sign of molting yet; 15 on 19 July, 2/20, 4/21,
Short-billed Dowitcher: 3 on 19 July, 2
on 20 July, 4 on 22 July.
Many (most?) adult Short-billed
Dowitchers in Eastern Canada fly directly from the breeding grounds
to the Atlantic Coast (Maritime Provinces, New England States, New
York and New Jersey), so only small numbers are usually seen on James
Wilson's Snipe: 6 on 19 July, 2/18,
2/21, 4/22. Two tiny young 2-3 days old.
AERIAL SURVEYS: Guy Morrison and Ken
Ross (CWS) are surveying the west coast of James Bay this week for
waterfowl (such as molting flocks of male Black Scoters) and
shorebirds. They also will be surveying Akimiski Island, Nunavut,
this week. On 22 July (Tuesday) they surveyed Longridge Point. The
ROM crew at the same time was "ground truthing" to compare results
(species and numbers of shorebirds seen) between the air and ground
OTHER BIRDS: Trumpeter Swan (year-old
bird with some brownish feathers) on 20 July, Yellow Rails, Eastern
Kingbird on 22 July, Le Conte's Sparrows, Nelson's Sparrows,
Tennessee Warbler (common), 1 Clay-colored Sparrow, Common Redpolls
flying over every day.
BEARS: Longridge Point is the ideal
location to study shorebird migration because it is south of most
summering Polar Bears, which are rare south of Akimiski Island.
However, Black Bears are frequent at Longridge. This week a female
with 3 cubs broke into camp while the surveyors were out during
daylight. The bears made a mess eating camp food and left teeth
marks in many things. The only item the bears ignored was the large cans
of Tim Hortons coffee. Guy Morrison and Ken Ross (CWS) brought in
food by helicopter to replace what was lost to the bears. The ROM's camp is at the base of the peninsula and it is 5.7 km to the
tip. Now a person must watch the camp during the day because the
bears will not leave the area. Two people have federal firearm
licences to carry a rifle or shotgun, but no bears would be killed
unless to protect human life.
BUTTERFLIES: Recent warm sunny weather
in the high 20s C brought out Arctic Blue, Common Ringlet, Northern
Crescent, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Viceroy, and White Admiral
(often on bear dung). Old World Swallowtails were seen on 16 and 17
July in Moosonee.
GEOGRAPHY: James Bay is the southeastern
extension of Hudson Bay between Ontario and Quebec reaching very
deep into eastern Canada south to latitude 51 degrees, putting
Moosonee slightly south of Calgary, Alberta. James Bay is one of the
largest inland seas in the world. Ontario's approximately 560 km
coastline of James Bay is extremely flat and intersected by several
large rivers and numerous smaller streams. The southern coast is
characterized by long narrow promontories, such as Longridge Point
which projects 6 km into James Bay, wide sandy bays, extensive
brackish marshes, wide intertidal flats, and shoals. Tides range
from 1 to 3 m with occasional very high wind tides flooding the flat
terrain. Inland from the coast is the immense boreal Hudson Bay
Lowlands (HBL) comprising almost 25% of the province. The HBL extend
into the adjacent provinces of Quebec and Manitoba making it one of
the largest wetlands in the world.
Map showing location of Longridge Point.
ONTARIO SHOREBIRD CONSERVATION PLAN.
2003. Ross, K., and K. Abraham, R. Clay, B. Collins, J. Iron, R.
James, D. McLachlin, R. Weeber. 48 pages. Canadian Wildlife Service,
Environment Canada. Link to pdf below.
Next update in a few days.
Ron Pittaway, Minden and Toronto ON