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 Point.
Black-bellied Plover: 76 adults on Aug 6.
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
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 6.
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 Riley Walsh.
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 2.
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
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 6.
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 wintering
Wilson's Phalarope: 4 juveniles on Aug 7. A small isolated population nests
in the prairie-like marshes of James Bay.
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
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 Apkarian.
1. Map of southern James Bay shows location of Longridge Point.
2. Population Estimates of North American Shorebirds (2012)
3. 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