This is report # 4 from Jean Iron by satellite phone on 2 June 2006 from
Akimiski Island (Nunavut Territory) in James Bay. James Bay is the shallow
southeastern arm of Hudson Bay. With an area about 3000 sq km or 1158 sq
mi, Akimiski is the largest of many islands and islets in James Bay between
Ontario and Quebec. Jean is a volunteer with the Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources (OMNR). Here's a summary of observations for Thursday, 1
June. This report includes corrections to previous reports. Please note
that shorebirds are mixed with other species because this post is also sent
to Ontbirds, our provincial listserve.
Canada Goose (subspecies interior): Report # 3 mentioned a Red Fox preying
on incubating females. Ken Abraham now thinks a Polar Bear killed the geese
and destroyed 10+ nests. There is a previous episode of Polar Bear
destruction of Canada Goose nests on Akimiski in 1995 published by Art
Smith and Michael Hill in the Journal of Wildlife Management. The
monitoring of Canada Geese is the result of Ontario's long-term partnership
with American states in the Mississippi Flyway and Atlantic Flyway.
American researchers sometimes visit Akimiski and other sites to assist
with banding the molting flightless adults and large flightless young in
mid-summer. Considerable funding for Canada Goose and Snow Goose monitoring
comes from the United States.
Shorebird Migration: Ken Abraham says the numbers of shorebirds seen during
the last week of May on Akimiski were lower than usual. He suspects a delay
in migration was caused by cool temperatures and north winds until
recently. Now that they are coming through, shorebirds will be unimpeded by
the lack snow and ice so they may move faster and more directly to more
northern breeding areas.
Shorebird Research on Akimiski: This is a collaboration of Ken Abraham of
OMNR, Erica Nol of Trent University and Ken Ross of the CWS. Erica has a
long term study of Semipalmated Plovers going at Churchill, Manitoba. She
also has had students working on them at Southampton Island (Nunavut), as
well as the cooperative study on Akimiski Island. Erica and Ken are
co-supervising Linh Nguyen, who is completing his Ph.D. at Trent on habitat
selection and nesting success of Semipalmated Plovers. Linh's field work
was done in 2002-2004 and he has published several papers already. This
summer he is running the Churchill study for Erica. In 2005, Carmen Lishman
did her Honors B.Sc. thesis on Semipalmated Plovers based on a continuation
of the Akimiski Island work. Student assistants on Akimiski are doing data
collection for 2006. Jean photographed a color banded Semiplamated from the
2002-2005 studies and another was seen yesterday.
Marbled Godwit Research: 28 Marbled Godwits counted on Wednesday and 19
yesterday. Katie Walker of Trent University is doing an Honors B.Sc. thesis
project on "Habitat Use and Behaviour of Marbled Godwits on Akimiski
Island". I hope she didn't mind being elevated to graduate student status
in previous reports. Katie's work will be the first intensive data
collection on the breeding ecology of James Bay Marbled Godwits. It will
build on the general ecology and population monitoring work that Ken
Abraham (OMNR) and Ken Ross (CWS) have been doing on them over the past
several years. Erica Nol and Ken Abraham are co-supervising Katie's thesis.
Katie hopes to find nests and trap some birds to color mark them this
summer. Future satellite marking (not before 2007) will be done in
cooperation with Dr. Adrian Farmer of the United States Geological Survey.
Hudsonian Godwit: Steve Belfry videoed copulating Hudsonian Godwits
yesterday. If breeding is confirmed, it will be the first for the island.
The adjacent Hudson Bay Lowlands of Ontario may have as much as 50% of the
entire Canadian population.
Short-billed Dowitcher: One typical nominate 'griseus' subspecies observed
by Jean yesterday. Dowitcher nests are notoriously difficult to find.
Best Birds: An adult Pacific Loon and adult Long-tailed Jaeger were near
camp yesterday. A Turkey Vulture found yesterday by Rod Brook and Sarah
Hagey is the first record for the Akimiski Island.
Other Birds: 500 Brant feeding on Puccinellia grasses on shoreline flats, 5
Sandhill Cranes, 50 Black-bellied Plover, 3 Killdeer nests so far and one
was a complete clutch on 24 May, 5 Arctic Terns, 5 Short-eared Owls, 2
lonesome Common Grackles, singing Fox Sparrows.
Redpolls: Smalls flocks were flying northwest yesterday and they were
flying in the same direction as we talked by satellite phone this morning.
Both Common (more frequent) and Hoary Redpolls are likely.
Colonial Waterbirds: When Ken Abraham (OMNR) crossed Akimiski Strait by
helicopter on Wednesday (31 May) he observed approximately 40 American
White Pelicans east of Attawapiskat, Ontario. A year ago on 1 June 2005,
Ken Ross, Don Fillman of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Ken
Abraham saw 32 pelicans there. Their behavior this year suggested they
didn't (yet) have eggs, but it could be too early for them. It they are
breeding, this would be the most easterly breeding location in Canada.
Interestingly, Ken found 19 nests of Double-crested Cormorants, a first
breeding record for the Akimiski Strait islands and probably the most
northerly in James Bay. He doesn't know if they are breeding farther north
on the Quebec-side of James Bay. The nesting island is less than 200 m long
and the top is about 2 m above sea level; it is well vegetated with
grasses, gooseberry shrubs and herbaceous species, but no trees. Ken also
found 6 Herring Gull nests and an estimated 200 Ring-billed Gull nests
(based on fast walk through) and at least 4 Caspian Terns (likely nesting)
and some small terns (probably Arctic) and at least 1 Great Black-backed Gull.
Next update in 2 - 3 days.
Toronto & Minden