Hi Ted and friends, Thank you for sharing your great adventures. Great 
stuff. I have one question regarding the Horned Grebe & chick in the photo. 
Although everything points to Horned Grebe it's plumage looks weird to me. 
Have a look at p.27 in Sibley's North American Bird Guide and you will see 
what I mean. I see a rather plain colored bird lacking the typical jet black 
cheeks and bright yellow head patch f.i. I don't know what it means but it 
would be interesting to know if the other grebes you saw looked similar.
All the best, Norman

Charlton Island shorebird expedition, 2016  (click here to see part 1 of 
account on Nature Canada 

Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada

A joint project of Nature Canada, Environment Canada, the Cree Nation 
Government, the Waskaganish Cree Trappers' Association, the Cree Nation of 
Waskaganish, and Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board

On July 26, the day after delivering a community workshop in Waskaganish 
Quebec on shorebird identification and conservation, seven of us headed out 
into Rupert Bay and James Bay in `local sea-worthy boats for the 80 plus 
kilometre trip to Charlton Island.  Our late departure (about 8 pm), had us 
arriving just as it was getting dark, around 10:30, but our drivers were 
experts, and not only knew the route by heart but also knew how to dodge two 
storms converging on either side of us.

A second crew of five, who were slightly delayedž didn't fare as well and 
were forced to seek refuge from the storm in a camp less than half way to 
their destination, Boatswain Bay.  Unfortunately their shorter expedition 
was compromised by rough seas and rain the following two days and they 
returned to Waskaganish on July 29 without seeing Boatswain Bay.

One of the project's goals is to determine through daily counts, populations 
of bird species, with a focus on shorebird species, on Charlton, Carey, 
Danby, and the Strutton Islands, and their surrounding waters.  The outcome 
of this project could support nomination of one or more new Important Bird 
and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) and possibly an extension to a proposed Western 
Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site for Southern James Bay.

Community Engagement is a priority

A second project goal is engage local community members of the Cree Nation 
of Waskaganish directly in research, monitoring and conservation of bird 
populations, particularly shorebirds and species at risk.  Five of the seven 
expedition participants were local, from the Cree Nation of Waskaganish.

Over the course of the following nine days, we surveyed the perimeter of 
Charlton Island, which stretches about 40 kilometres in length from 
south-west to north-east, about 35 kilometres beyond the mouth of Rupert Bay 
at 52 degrees latitude, and 79 degrees longitude, as well as some of the 
other nearby islands including Danby and Carey, a few kilometres off the 
south-eastern coast, and another cluster about 20 kilometres to the 
north-east, called the Strutton Islands.   The islands have sandy soils 
underlain by fossil-rich sedimentary rock.  Charlton is an impressive dune 
system that rises to about 30 metres above sea level at its highest 
location.  The interior is a vast network of spruce forest, dunes, beaver 
lakes, and other wetland habitats.  Contrary to the information in 
Wikipedia, which describes Charlton as uninhabited, the Cree have seasonally 
lived on the islands since long before European contact, and currently a few 
families from Waskaganish have family camps on Charlton primarily. 
Charlton Island served as a depot for the Hudson Bay Company and the North 
West Company, as it was the only deep water harbour from which large ships 
could unload goods and collect furs from the trading posts at Fort Rupert, 
Moose Factory, and East Main where access by large ships was impossible. 
Barges would make the trip from the trading posts to Charlton Island.

The Crew:

Ted Cheskey of Nature Canada organized the expedition and was joined by 
skilled field ornithologist Marc-Antoine Montpetit from Mont Laurier, our 
kind host, boat pilot and local guide, elder Bill Jolly, boat pilot and 
local guide Clayton Jolly, local project coordinator Garry Salt, and field 
assistants Jeremy Stevens and Jordan Rabbitskin.


July 27 and 28 were cool, damp with intermittent rain, and temperatures 
between 5 degrees Celsius at night to 15°C during the day.   July 30 was 
warmer, breaking 20°C during that day, and from July 31 to August 4 the 
temperature was over 30°C each day with slight south winds and no 

Large Mammals

We frequently observed Polar Bear tracks in the mud flats and along the 
beaches.   Montpetit, B. Jolly, G. Salt and J. Stevens had a peaceful 
encounter with a Polar Bear.   We also observed frequent signs of Caribou 
and observed Caribou on three different occasions.  Beluga sightings were 
nearly daily in the strait between Charlton and Danby Islands.   We also 
observed Ringed Seals off the coast of Charlton.


Over the course of nine days, we observed 18,204 individual birds of 101 
species.  Included in this total were five federally recognized species at 
risk including the Endangered Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) (551), the 
Threatened Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) (2), and the Special 
Concern Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) (4), Rusty Blackbird 
(Euphagus carolinus) (76) and Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) (1).   In 
addition, impressive numbers of waterfowl were observed, particularly diving 
ducks off the coast of Charlton Island where rich mussel beds provide a 
stable source of food, and the geography of the island provides refuge from 
stormy seas and predators for moulting birds.  Black Scoter topped the list 
of duck species with 4742 individuals observed, followed by Common Goldeneye 
with 1669 and Surf Scoter with 980.

Seventeen species of shorebirds were observed, most in "adult" plumage.  We 
encountered several flocks of Red Knot on Charlton, Danby, Carey and the 
Strutton Islands.  The largest single group was 148 (all adults), and the 
summed total from maximums observed at different location was 551 
individuals with 8 marked birds that included 3 captured in Canada, 4 from 
the USA, and one from Argentina.


Species                                                 Corrected total **

Black-bellied Plover                        68

Semipalmated Plover                     153

Killdeer                                                 35

Whimbrel                                            140

Hudsonian Godwit                          213

Ruddy Turnstone                             762

Red Knot                                             551

Dunlin                                                   1

Least Sandpiper                                194

White-rumped Sandpiper            460

Pectoral Sandpiper                          1

Semipalmated Sandpiper             2027

Wilson's Snipe                                   17

Spotted Sandpiper                          112

Solitary Sandpiper                           4

Greater Yellowlegs                          491

Lesser Yellowlegs                             456

**We visited some areas on multiple occasions, while other areas were 
visited only once.  The corrected total is the sum total of all of the areas 
visited once, plus the single maximum number of individuals observed from 
the same location visited multiple times.   For example, to test whether Red 
Knot numbers represent different groups of birds or possibly the same group 
of birds displacing itself multiple times, we revisited one area where we 
had observed the largest flock, about three kilometres from base camp, 
twice.   On both occasions separated by 7 days, we counted the largest 
number of individuals recorded of any flock of Knots in our field work (128 
on first visit, and 148 on second visit).  We used the larger number of 148 
in calculating the corrected total (and discarded the 128 number).   We also 
used this observation as a test of our confidence that Knots recorded in 
different areas are different birds (and not the same ones moving between 
sites).   To answer the question of birds moving between different sites, we 
hope to use the MOTUS system

Other species of conservation interest

Marc Antoine Montpetit located two active nests (with young) of Horned 
Grebe, and one active nest of Red-necked Grebe. Both species are hundreds of 
kilometres outside of their published breeding range.  In fact the nearest 
published Quebec breeding location for this species is on les Iles de la 
Madeleine, a few thousand kilometres to the east, and in Ontario on the 
Manitoba-Ontario border, about a thousand kilometres to the west (Ontario 
Breeding Bird Atlas, 2001-2005.


On July 30, we installed a MOTUS wildlife tracking antennae on Charlton 
Island.  Prior to commencing our trip, a team from Bird Studies Canada 
installed MOTUS antennae at the Waskaganish CTA offices, and trained local 
coordinator Garry Salt.    MOTUS antennae are designed to capture 
transmissions from tiny nanotags that are attached to birds in many 
locations across Canada and elsewhere in the Americas.  For more information 
about MOTUS, click here.

Return and acknowledgements

We arrived back at Waskaganish in late afternoon on August 4rth, just in 
time to unpack and transfer equipment to the CTA office and my vehicle.   A 
few hours later, a massive cold front slammed through Waskaganish with 100 
plus kilometre per hour gusts, driving rain and intense lightning.  The 
storm associated with the front lingered on through the night into the next 

Nature Canada is grateful for the interest and support of the Cree Nation of 
Waskaganish for this project.   This expedition was undertaken with the 
financial support of Government of Canada's Habitat Stewardship program 
(HSP), the Aboriginal Fund for Species At Risk (AFSAR), and support from the 
Eeyou Marine Region Board (EMR). 

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