Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 08:52:55 -0400
Reply-To: Jean Iron <jeaniron@SYMPATICO.CA>
Sender: Shorebird Discussion Group <SHOREBIRDS@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Jean Iron <jeaniron@SYMPATICO.CA>
Subject: Arctic Breeding Conditions in 2009
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Yesterday we saw an adult Lesser Yellowlegs near Toronto and on
Wednesday there was an adult Least Sandpiper in Hamilton at the west
end of Lake Ontario. These are the first "fall migrant" shorebirds in
southern Ontario and they are right on schedule.
Several people asked us to comment about recent reports of a
"Disastrous breeding season in the Arctic". The Arctic is huge; it is
3500 km from southern James Bay (subarctic) to northern Ellesmere
Island. Most shorebirds have large breeding ranges and even in late
years many birds breed successfully and rarely does the entire Arctic
experience the same climatic conditions. We checked with northern
researchers and summarized their comments below. Shorebird nesting in
2009 is poor in some regions but normal to good elsewhere.
Ontario: Ken Abraham reports that conditions in the Hudson Bay
Lowlands were about 10 days late from Attawapiskat south on James
Bay, including Akimiski Island, with Canada Geese and Snow Geese
hatching in mid June, more like the 1990s average than the 2000s
average and within the overall norms. Other species on Akimiski
Island were correspondingly late. His guess is that for those species
that require shorter time there will be some reduction but not huge.
Perhaps the predation effect will be somewhat greater if alternate
species are less available. Because coastal snow, ice and water
inundation conditions were similar from Cape Henrietta Maria to the
Manitoba border, Ken expects that for Canada Geese nesting within 40
- 60 km from the coast, a much reduced effort and productivity will
be the norm. Snow Geese at Cape Henrietta Maria were greatly down and
the suggestion of a 90% reduction seems to fit what they saw on their
survey. However, beyond 40 - 60 km inland, he thinks conditions will
be different. Mark Peck said that species nesting away from the
Hudson Bay Coast in boreal bogs and fens such as yellowlegs should
not be severely impacted because much of the freeze took place near the coast.
Manitoba: The situation is worse in northern Manitoba at Churchill
where temperatures were well below normal until recently and the snow
cover melted late. However, Erica Nol reports that birds have started
to nest, just very late, and it won't be a complete bust for
shorebirds if there are enough bare spots. Whimbrels and Hudsonian
Godwits are nesting, but overall nesting success should be below
average for most shorebirds in northern Manitoba.
Nunavut: Snow melt was up to three weeks late in mainland Nunavut
north of Manitoba. Recent temperatures have been close to normal.
Much of Baffin Island is now snow free and conditions there and on
Bylot Island are about normal. High Arctic breeders should have a
good breeding year.
Northwest Territories: Vicky Johnston suspects it will be a poor
breeding year in parts of the Western Arctic. Spring was roughly
three weeks late in Yellowknife on Great Slave Lake based on
leaf-out. The Mackenzie Valley and Delta warmed early but then cooled
off again. The Delta flooded slowly and the water receded slowly, so
some prime shorebird breeding areas were subject to heavy predation.
Yukon: Cameron Eckert reports a late spring, but once the heat came,
everything shifted into high gear.
Alaska: Declan Troy reports from the North Slope that the snow on the
tundra is long gone. It was much warmer earlier in the month and his
guess is that the breeding season has been early there.
We will be recording the arrivals and numbers of adult and juvenile
shorebirds in southern Ontario and may post updates.
Acknowledgements: We thank Ken Abraham, Bruce Di Labio, Cameron
Eckert, Michel Gosselin, Vicky Johnston, Erica Nol, Mark Peck, Ken
Ross, Don Sutherland, and Declan Troy.
Ron Pittaway and Jean Iron