Friday, 27 July 2012

James Bay trip

Tomorrow morning I leave for nearly 3 weeks to survey shorebirds along Canada's ocean coast of James Bay. I will be going with a crew of 4/5 others to Longridge Point, about 60 km northeast of Moosonee, to survey Red Knots and other shorebirds.


The above image I stole from Jean Iron's website - I hope she's ok with that! :)
Longridge Point, along with most of southwestern James Bay, is part of the migratory route of millions of shorebirds and is a crucial stopover ground for many of them. The extensive tidal flats and coastal marshes provide ideal conditions for these shorebirds to fatten up being their long flights to the next stopover site or their wintering ground. We will focus our efforts on the endangered "rufa" subspecies of Red Knot, but there should be very good numbers of other shorebird species, such as Semipalmated and White-rumped Sandpipers, Hudsonian Godwits, and Dunlin. Of course there will be smaller numbers of 20 or so other species throughout the duration of my stay.

This will be a cool experience since I have never been up here before in my life. It will be awesome to see the massive flocks of shorebirds, to experience species more associated with the arctic, and to reacquaint myself with mosquitoes, something I have dearly missed since being home from all my field work in the north.

From a big year perspective, I have 3 species that I need to/should get this trip. The main goal is Arctic Tern since I missed it on its spring migration through eastern Ontario. This will likely be my last opportunity for this species as they rarely are seen in the autumn in southern Ontario. Arctic Terns regularly can be seen in southwestern James Bay in August, but they are by no means common and I could potentially miss this species.

The other two species I am hoping to get are somewhat easier. Nelson's Sparrows breed up here and may still be singing. I should be able to get this species without too much effort. Red Knots I will be studying and I should see hundreds of them!

Longridge Point is in a pretty good location to get vagrants that are lost over James Bay. Recently in North America there have been more than the usual amount of Little Stints, Ruffs, and Red-necked Stints being seen. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for these Siberian/European species as well as others such as Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, European Golden-Plover, Common and Spotted Redshank, etc. You just never know!

Other, potential year birds that may be a bit more likely include Red Phalarope, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaeger, Common Eider, Pacific Loon, and Sabine's Gull. All these species still aren't very likely but I am hoping to maybe get one of the above.

At any rate, I would consider the trip a success if I get my main 3 targets and I don't miss too many rarities in the south while I am gone!

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