By George! I really must control myself not to go to Quebec at once! Here in the Rhine-Meuse delta in The Netherlands waders are arriving in large numbers from their northern breeding areas. Near where I live the usual 3 to 4 thousand Curlews of Finnish-Russian origin (among them birds of the race orientalis) have arrived earlier this month and are now half way primary moult. Ruff and Reeve are everywhere and Dutch Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits are on the brink of leaving for West Africa to be replaced by their Icelandic counterparts soon. Arctic breeders such as Turnstone and Knot also arrived but in worn breeding plumage we can only guess about their origin.
Ron Pittaway reporting:>I am reporting for Jean Iron who is surveying Red Knots and other shorebirds at the Mingan Archipelago (islands) on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec. Jean and Gerry Binsfeld are with Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Mark is part of an international team researching Red Knots. Yves Aubry of the Canadian Wildlife Service (Quebec Region) is the project supervisor. The surveyors are living in Havre-Saint-Pierre, which is 150 km before the end of the road along Quebec's north shore. The Mingan Archipelago is about 870 km (540 mi) northeast of Quebec City. The archipelago consists of about 1000 coastal islands, some quite large where the knot surveyors are working. This is the region that John James Audubon called Labrador when he visited and collected birds in 1833. However, Audubon never visited the current Labrador, which is now the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, that became part of Canada in 1949. The Mingan Archipelago is a National Park Reserve administered by Parks Canada. The vegetation is boreal and subarctic. The shorebird habitat isn't the usual tidal mudflats. At low tide the flat limestone bedrock on the large islands is exposed creating many thousands of tidal pools full of invertebrates and sea life. This is where the Red Knots and shorebirds feed.
RED KNOTS: 1500 knots seen yesterday, 24 July 2007. This is a major staging area. 1500 knots is about 7% of the population in eastern North America. All adults (presumably females) to date are in worn and faded alternate plumage. They are beginning to molt indicated by incoming pin feathers seen on birds in the hand. The breeding grounds of knots in the Canadian Arctic is known in the broad sense, but the exact origins of the Quebec migrants is not known. The adult males and growing juveniles are still on the breeding grounds. The surveyors are looking for leg flags indicating where the birds were banded. So far they've found birds banded in Chile (red) Argentina (orange), Brazil (blue), USA - Florida (lime green), Delaware Bay (dark green), and Canada (white). In the nets they had a knot banded in Argentina and another banded last spring on Delaware Bay, USA. So far they have spotted colour flagged knots from Brazil and one marked this spring at Delaware Bay.
Other Shorebirds: Hudsonian Godwits, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Short-billed Dowitchers (subspecies griseus that breeds in Quebec and Labrador). All migrant shorebirds are adults that recently departed the nesting grounds. They feed at the tide edge among the seaweed. There are no mudflats. When the tide goes out it exposes flat limestone (platiers in French) pools covered with seaweed and invertebrates.
Other Bird Sightings: On Sunday their day off, Charles Kavanagh, Chief of Conservation, Parks Canada took the surveyors to the seabird nesting islands where they saw about 300 pairs Atlantic Puffins, about 100 Razorbills and a colony of Black-legged Kittiwakes. Other birds seen were Arctic Terns, Northern Gannets, Black Guillemots, Northern Fulmars, Parasitic Jaegers, Red-throated Loons nest on ponds in peat fens just outside Havre-Saint-Pierre, Gray Jay pair with dark juveniles (no bands Dan), Boreal Chickadee with young, Blackpoll Warblers, Fox Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskins. Boreal Owls and Saw-whet Owls nest boxes.
Miscellaneous: There are no Red Squirrels on the islands. This is very important in preserving the original ecology of the islands. Red Squirrels are nest predators. The area is excellent for whale watching and seals.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This is a cooperative project headed by Yves Aubry, Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Alan Baker, Head of Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It is funded by World Wildlife Fund, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Canadian Wildlife Service. Parks Canada provides transportation to the islands and many services.
Six Shorebird Surveyors are: Yves Aubry (CWS), Mark Peck (ROM), Christophe Buidin, President of Club d'ornithologie de la Cote-Nord (under contract to CWS), Yann Rochepault, Directeur of Club d'ornithologie de la Cote-Nord (under contract to CWS). Gerry Binsfeld*, volunteer from Ontario. Jean Iron*, volunteer from Ontario. *Note: Gerry and Jean speak French and they love shorebirds, which is why Mark Peck recruited them.
People supporting the surveys are: Charles Kavanagh, Chief of Conservation, Parks Canada. Yann Boudreau, Park Warden, Parks Canada who assisted with the banding on four nights. Harold Rochaud, Capitaine of Le Cartier, Parks Canada boat.
Jean reports the outstanding hospitality of the people along Quebec's North Shore.
For more information http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/qc/mingan/index_e.asp