This is Jean Iron's first report for the
period July 31 to August 7, 2018 from Longridge Point (51.798942N,
080.69204W) on the southwest coast of James Bay in Ontario about 910
km (565 mi) north of Toronto. Two other crews are at Little
Piskwamish and Northbluff Point. Locations shown on map in link #1
below. The vast tidal mudflats and coastal marshes make James Bay
one of the most important shorebird stopover sites in North America.
Surveys under the direction of Christian Friis of the Canadian
Wildlife Service with partners Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
and Forestry, Bird Studies Canada and Trent University in
conjunction with a larger conservation initiative involving the
James Bay First Nations and Nature Canada.
LONGRIDGE CREW: The 7 surveyors are Doug
McRae (crew lead), Isabel Apkarian, Jean Iron, Michael Runtz, Hannah
Shinton, Riley Walsh and Ross Wood. Hannah Shinton is a student with
the Environmental Visual Communications course that is run through
Fleming College and the Royal Ontario Museum. She is producing a
video on how traditional ecological knowledge and western science
can work together to help protect important areas and species such
as the James Bay coast (Mark Peck pers. comm.).
SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: 26 species of
shorebirds to date. Maximum counts for each species listed below.
Arrival dates of juveniles reported. Observations only for Longridge
Black-bellied Plover: 76 adults on Aug
American Golden Plover: 1 adult on Aug
1 to 6.
Semipalmated Plover: 173 adults on Aug
3. First juvenile on Aug 3.
Killdeer: 8 on Aug 5 including 1 ad and
2 half-grown young.
Whimbrel: Seen daily, high counts 18 on
Aug 2 and 17 on 3rd and 6th.
Hudsonian Godwit: 232 on Aug 2. After
fattening most will fly non-stop to South America.
Marbled Godwit: 4 on Aug 3. An isolated
population of a few thousand birds breeds at southern James Bay.
This eastern population migrates southwest to the Gulf of
California, not to the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts as once believed
before satellite tracking.
Ruddy Turnstone: 311 adults on Aug 6.
Red Knot: Endangered rufa subspecies.
1500 adults (about 40 flags read) on Aug 1 and 411 on 2nd. Adult
knots fatten and undergo variable amounts of body molt before most
migrate non-stop to South America. No juveniles yet but still early
for them. Juveniles do not molt while at James Bay.
Stilt Sandpiper: 2 molting adults on Aug
Sanderling: 69 molting and fading adults
on Aug 6.
Dunlin: 21 adults (no juveniles) on Aug
1. Subspecies hudsonia. This subspecies molts in the north before
migration which accounts for its late arrival in the south with most
arriving there after mid-September.
Baird's Sandpiper: Adult on Aug 6 by
Least Sandpiper: 86 adults and juveniles
on Aug 6.
White-rumped Sandpiper: 3728 molting
adults on Aug 2. James Bay may be the most important fall staging
area for this sandpiper in North America. After fattening most
overfly southern Canada and the United States going to South
Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Adult on Aug
Pectoral Sandpiper: 303 adults on Aug 3.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 3388 adults on
Aug 3. First 2 juveniles on 6th. Low number of juveniles for the
date. Most James Bay birds go via the Bay of Fundy to South America.
These are the two most important stopover sites for southbound
Semipalmated Sandpipers in North America.
Peeps: 2503 unidentified on Aug 3,
probably mostly Semipalmated and White-rumped Sandpipers.
Short-billed Dowitcher: 1 adult on Aug
3. Most adults have departed the north. First juvenile on Aug 6.
Wilson's Snipe: 14 on Aug 3.
Spotted Sandpiper: 5 juveniles on Aug
Solitary Sandpiper: 3 adults on Aug 6.
Greater Yellowlegs: 91 adults and
juveniles on Aug 4. Ross Wood and Jean saw a Greater Yellowlegs
catch and eat a Wood Frog.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 212 adults and
juveniles on Aug 3. There has been a marked decline in numbers of
this yellowlegs. Hunting mortality on the wintering grounds is a
threat. Ross Wood is attaching 9 satellite transmitters on adult
Lesser Yellowlegs as part of an international study to determine
migratory routes, wintering areas, assess survival and return rates.
Ross is taking blood and feather samples. Genetics and stable
isotopes will be used to determine origins of birds taken on the
Wilson's Phalarope: 4 juveniles on Aug
7. A small isolated population nests in the prairie-like marshes of
Red-necked Phalarope: One on Aug 3.
SHOREBIRD BREEDING POOR IN 2018: It was
an overall a poor breeding season for shorebirds in the Canadian
Arctic. A poor breeding season was also reported in Greenland and
the North Slope of Alaska. The situation this summer was mainly a
delayed (late) snow melt such that many birds did not breed. Those
birds that did nest late had low success. Summer storms also caused
nest abandonment and many nests were depredated. Paul Smith of the
Canadian Wildlife Service commented, "I expect that juvenile numbers
should be low, but I would be happy to be wrong."
SELECTED BIRD SIGHTINGS: American Black
Duck, 21 on Aug 6. Black Scoter, 685 mostly molting males on Aug 6.
Bonaparte's Gull, 591 on Aug 4, almost all adults some starting to
molt, couple of juveniles. Little Gull (3), adult, juvenile and
first summer/second winter on Aug 4. Arctic Tern, 2 adults and 1
juvenile on Aug 3. Common Tern, 34 on Aug 4. YELLOW RAIL, 4 heard
ticking sometimes all night from camp. Ross Wood banded a Yellow
Rail on Aug 4.
Sora, 2-4 every day in pond near camp.
Peregrine Falcon, 1 on 1, 3, 4, 6 Aug. Merlin, 2 on Aug 1, 5, 6.
Bohemian Waxwing, 2 on Aug 3. Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1 on Aug 4.
Northern Shrike, 1 juvenile on Aug 3 and 5th. Canada Jay, 3 regulars
but not tame. Boreal Chickadee, 3 on Aug 3, regular.
Tennessee Warbler, 10 on Aug 1. Northern
Waterthrush, 2 on Aug 4.
Clay-colored Sparrow, 3 on Aug 3.
LeConte's Sparrows, 4-6 everyday, still singing. Nelson's Sparrows,
8 on Aug 6 (James Bay subspecies alter) still singing. Winter
Finches: Purple Finch, 1 on Aug 4 and 5. White-winged Crossbill, 5
on Aug 3. Common Redpoll, 1 on Aug 1 and 3. Pine Siskin, 36 on Aug
MAMMALS: Beluga (White Whale) 3 on Aug
3. Black Bear, 2 near camp and fresh scat seen. Polar Bear (1 at
Longridge 18 July 2016) is rare south of Akimiski Island (see map
link #1) where the world's most southerly population spend the
summer. River Otter, 1 on Aug 6 seen by Michael Runtz and Isabel
1. Map of southern James Bay shows
location of Longridge Point.
Population Estimates of North American Shorebirds (2012)
Southbound Shorebirds - Annotated Checklist.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Survey camps are
rented from the Moose Cree First Nation.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources and Forestry (MNRF) provides accommodations in the staff
house while crews are in Moosonee. Thanks to Rod Brook of MNRF for
logistical support. MNRF helicopter transports crews to and from the
camps. Thanks to Paul Smith (CWS), Declan Troy and Lisa Pollock for
information on shorebird nesting success this summer. Jean thanks an
anonymous donor for financial assistance.
This is Jean's 15th consecutive summer
surveying birds in the Hudson Bay Lowlands including her 10th
consecutive year surveying shorebirds on James Bay
Ron Pittaway, Toronto ON