This is Jean Iron's first report for the period 30 July
to 6 August 2016 from Longridge Point (Lat 51.798681 N, Lon 80.691619 W) on the
southwest coast of James Bay in Ontario. Longridge is about 910 km (565 mi)
north of Toronto. It is one of four shorebird camps this summer. See locations
on map in link #1 below. Surveys are under the direction of Christian Friis of
the Canadian Wildlife Service with partners the Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Bird Studies Canada, Trent
University, Nature Canada and Moose Cree First Nation. Shorebird population
declines and the need to protect crucial intertidal habitats are driving
LONGRIDGE CREW: The seven crew members are Allie Anderson
(Crew leader, Trent University, Peterborough ON), Barbara Charlton (ON), Dan
Froehlich (Washington State), Kathryn Hoo (ON), Jean Iron (ON), Amie MacDonald
(ON) and Felicia Sanders (South Carolina).
SHOREBIRD OBSERVATIONS: 22 species to date. Total
shorebirds 15,617 on Aug 6. Maximum counts and dates for each species at
Longridge listed below. Counts are done from 2.5 hours before high tide to 2.5
hours after when shorebirds are more concentrated. Turnover from adults to juveniles
is occurring rapidly for many (not all) species.
Black-bellied Plover: 61 adults on Aug 6.
American Golden-Plover: 1 first summer/second winter on
Semipalmated Plover: 682 on July 31. 164 mostly adults on
Aug 4. Many newly arrived juveniles on Aug 6.
Killdeer: 10 on Aug 4.
Spotted Sandpiper: 7 on Aug 3.
Solitary Sandpiper: 1 adult on Aug 3. 1 juvenile on Aug
Greater Yellowlegs: 664 on Aug 6, 60% juveniles.
Lesser Yellowlegs: 776 on Aug 6, mostly juveniles.
Whimbrel: 41 on Aug 3. First juvenile on July 31. 95
mostly juveniles on Aug 6.
Marbled Godwit: 5 juveniles on Aug 4. An isolated
population breeds on southern James Bay. This population migrates southwest to
the Gulf of California, not to the Atlantic Coast as once believed.
Hudsonian Godwit: 368 molting and fattening adults on
July 31. 241 including first 2 juveniles on Aug 6. Many thousands are gathering
farther north along James Bay. Most will fly non-stop to South America.
Ruddy Turnstone: 400 adults on Aug 1.
RED KNOT: Endangered rufa subspecies. 6000 adults seen on
Aug 2 at Little Piskwamish Point South (fide Christian Friis). Smaller numbers
at Longridge with 520 molting adults on Aug 4. Flags read from United States
and Argentina. James Bay knots concentrate at a few favored stopover locations.
They fatten and undergo variable amounts of body molt before most make the long
non-stop flight to South America. This spring (2016) nanotagged knots from
Delaware Bay were detected in James Bay for a day or two going north. Nanotags
give information on timing of migration, migration routes, how long staying at
staging areas, breeding and wintering areas.
Sanderling: 5 molting adults on Aug 1.
Dunlin: Subspecies hudsonia. 10 molting adults on Aug 3.
Dunlins are feeding on amphipod shrimp.
Baird's Sandpiper: 1 adult on 31 July, 6 juveniles on Aug
Least Sandpiper: 741 mostly juveniles on Aug 6. Most
adults have departed from the north.
PEEPS: 10,000 mostly Semipalmated and White-rumped
Sandpipers on Aug 2 at Little Piskwamish Point South (fide Christian Friis).
White-rumped Sandpiper: 3400 molting adults on Aug 6.
Juveniles normally don't arrive until September. James Bay is the most
important fall staging area for this sandpiper in North America. 1 adult banded
on Aug 6 was very fat (fat score of 7) and was well molted into winter plumage.
After fattening most adults overfly southern Canada and the United States going
directly to South America.
Pectoral Sandpiper: 147 adults and 1 juvenile (first) on
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 800 on Aug 4 including 50 juveniles.
First juvenile on 31 July. 1070 on Aug 6 including many more newly arrived juveniles.
James Bay and the Bay of Fundy are the two most important stopover sites for
southbound Semipalmated Sandpipers in North America.
Wilson's Snipe: 6 on Aug 6, 1 still winnowing on Aug 3.
Red-necked Phalarope: 1 juvenile July 31.
SHOREBIRD FOODS: Shorebirds on James Bays feed on the
abundant larvae of the bivalve Macoma balthica (clam), and in southern James
Bay, the gastropod Hydrobia minuta (snail), as well as a variety of crustaceans
(shrimps/crabs and relatives), worms and dipteran (fly) larvae (Ontario
Shorebird Conservation Plan 2003). James Bay shorebirds are apparently not
eating biofilm or "slime mud" as in some other areas (fide Allie
Anderson). Biofilm is a thin layer of nutritious slime on mudflats.
UPCOMING AERIAL SURVEY: Legendary shorebird experts Guy
Morrison and Ken Ross will be doing an aerial survey on August 9 going from Hannah Bay near the Quebec border
to the mouth of the Ekwan River opposite Akimiski Island. They are focusing on
Red Knots but will be counting all shorebirds. A nanotag detector will be
attached to bottom of helicopter. Survey funded by Ontario's Species at Risk
PRAIRIE FALCON: An adult Prairie Falcon (found and aged
by Dan Froehlich) was seen 26 July 2016 at Longridge. Presumably this same
Prairie Falcon was seen Aug 2 at Little Piskwamish Point South. The adult
Prairie Falcon (photos taken) was seen again yesterday (Aug 6) at Longridge
Point. This 2016 individual is the second record for James Bay. The first
Prairie Falcon (a juvenile) for James Bay was found 2 August 2013 at Little
Piskwamish Point, but not afterwards. It was accepted by the OBRC. One wonders
if the juvenile in 2013 is now the adult observed this summer.
SOME OTHER BIRDS: Yellow Rails often heard ticking, high
count of 11 on Aug 1. Sora on July 31. American Black Duck, 16 on Aug 3. Black
Scoter, 1000 mostly molting males on July 31. Common Goldeneye, 120 on Aug 3.
Osprey, 1 on Aug 2. Bald Eagle, 3 on Aug 4. Northern Goshawk, juvenile on Aug
4. Northern Harrier, 1 seen daily. Merlin on Aug 3/4. Great Black-backed Gull,
2 first summer birds on Aug 3. Bonaparte's Gull 128 on July 31, 2 juveniles on Aug
2. Franklin's Gull on Jul 28, 29, 31 and Aug 2 and 6. Arctic Tern, 4 on Aug 3. Common Tern, 22 on
Aug 3. Alder Flycatcher, 8 on Aug 4. Gray Jay (4) and Boreal Chickadee (2)
regular at camp. Rusty Blackbird, 11 on July 31. Clay-colored Sparrow, 2 on Aug
1. Savannah Sparrow, 67 on Aug 4. Nelson's Sparrow (subspecies alter), 13 on
Aug 1. Le Conte's Sparrow, 5 on July 30. Both Nelson's and Le Conte's heard and
seen regularly. Lincoln's Sparrow, 6 on Aug 4. White-winged Crossbills, 141 on
Aug 2 with some flocks seen flying in off James Bay. Common Redpoll, 6 on Jul
30. Pine Siskins also sighted.
MAMMALS: Beluga (White Whale) 1 dead on beach found July
17. Bald Eagles feeding on it. A Polar Bear was seen July 18, but not since.
They are rare south of Akimiski Island where the world's most southerly
population spends the summer. A Black Bear seen regularly. Gray Wolf, 2 seen.
Family of Striped Skunks around camp. No voles and mice recorded (fide Dan
REPTILES: Eastern Gartersnake on Aug 2.
BUTTERFLIES: Milbert's Tortoiseshell found by Barb
1. Map showing locations of survey camps
2. Population Estimates of North American Shorebirds 2012
3. Guide to Southbound Shorebirds
WESTERN HEMISPHERE SHOREBIRD RESERVE: The vast pristine intertidal
mudflats and prairie-like coastal marshes of James Bay comprise one of the most
important shorebird areas in the world. The hope is that James Bay or portions
thereof will be designated a "Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve of
Hemispheric Importance". James Bay greatly exceeds the minimum criteria
for this designation.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Survey camps are rented from the Moose
Cree First Nation. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
(OMNRF) provides accommodations in the staff house while crews are in Moosonee.
These surveys would not be possible without the many hours of dedicated
volunteer effort. Jean thanks an anonymous donor for financial assistance.
Jean messages me by DeLorme inReach two-way satellite
communicator with GPS and sometimes by satellite phone from out on the tidal
flats. She's living her dream with the shorebirds.
Second report in 6-7 days.
Ron Pittaway (for Jean)