Thursday 6 September 2012

James Bay part 5 (August 9 to August 12, 2012)

Introductory Post
July 28 to 30, 2012 - Moosonee, Little Piskwamish Point
July 31 to August 2, 2012 - Little Piskwamish Point
August 3 to 5, 2012 - Longridge Point
August 6 to 8, 2012 - Longridge Point
August 9 to 12, 2012 - Longridge Point
August 12 to 15, 2012 - Longridge Point

This is my fifth of six posts covering the day to day highlights from James Bay. At this point, I have covered from July 28th to August 8. I had added four year birds: Nelson's Sparrow, Red Knot, Black Guillemot, and Arctic Tern (my main target!).

August 9, 2012
We awoke to a cool morning with a temperature around 5 degrees Celcius. The bird song, consisting primarily of sparrows the last few days, had abruptly stopped so the air had an autumn feel about it. Today I did some invertebrate sampling with Andrew. It had to be done once a week and consisted of sampling the mudflats along a 1 km transect to hopefully find out what the shorebirds were eating. This took most of the day, so needless to say not much birding was done!

High tide was later in the evening so I spent the afternoon relaxing and having a quick nap. Around 4:30 PM Jean and I headed out to the river-mouth to see what we could find, though the rest of the group hung back. We didn't find another Arctic Tern, however I was more than happy to see this juvenile Red-necked Phalarope!

Red-necked Phalarope -  Longridge Point, James Bay

Other than the single bird I found at Little Piskwamish on August 1st, this was the only other Red-necked Phalarope that our group had seen on the coast. Of course, that got the rest of the crew to come out to take a look! The evening light was perfect and the bird was completely unconcerned, so I was able to get some good photos from only a dozen feet away.

Red-necked Phalarope -  Longridge Point, James Bay

I managed to photograph some of the other people without them noticing. Ian, scoping those birds like its his job...

Ian -  Longridge Point, James Bay

And Andrew, with a rare serious look on his face.

Andrew -  Longridge Point, James Bay

Of course, how could I ignore the roosting Hudsonian Godwits on a calm evening with perfect light?

Hudwits and Bonies - Longridge Point, James Bay

Hudwits and Bonies - Longridge Point, James Bay

I think that Ruddy Turnstones are the most entertaining of all the shorebirds. They make the strangest sounds, have a round body with a stout little head (plus a myriad of interesting colours and patterns), and spend all day walking around and flipping over anything they can....This is a rare moment when they are actually resting.

Ruddy Turnstones -  Longridge Point, James Bay

August 10, 2012
On my 5th last full day on the coast I was assigned to walk to the tip of Longridge Point with Deborah. It was a little more relaxing than my previous trips to the tip, without the pressure of having to find an Arctic Tern!

Deborah -  Longridge Point, James Bay

I had a couple of moments this day which really were incredible. The first came almost first thing in the morning as Deborah and I were censusing the shorebirds at the rivermouth. Deborah asked, "What's that animal?" I took a glance and explained that it was a Black-bellied Plover. She mentioned that no, she wasn't looking at a shorebird but a canine-looking animal. I looked up and just about shit myself as there was a beautiful Gray Wolf trotting along the high tide mark, less than 100 meters away! We had great looks at it in the scope as it looked at us before eventually leaving and disappearing into the forest.

The second moment was once Deborah and I had returned to camp. I was walking around the main cabin, looking for a big drum for Ian and I to burn our garbage in, when I stopped to look at some Boreal Chickadees in the trees. One came quite close and landed on a branch no more than 18 inches from my face! I just stared at him for the longest time as he peered back at me, making a fantastic variety of little chips and seet notes. I could see every detail of his feathers as he chattered away! I didn't have a camera, but here's a photo of one of the local BOCHs using a tarp as a bath.

Boreal Chick having a bath -  Longridge Point, James Bay

August 11, 2012
For some reason every time I go birding with Barb Charlton (aka the we have incredible luck, though I think it is more about our skill than anything! :) We have been successful chasing just about every rarity we have tried for this year as well as finding a few good birds while we were together! Most recently was the Black Guillemot from August 5. Today I headed to the south end of our area, Beluga Point, with Barb to see what we could find. Our streak continued, though it wasn't for a bird sighting!

Barb scanning for birds -  Longridge Point, James Bay

We were scanning the lake while families of Common Terns screamed at us. Shorebirds were relatively weak in diversity and not much was moving on the warm, still morning. As I was scanning I was surprised to see a couple of big white shapes rise to the surface for a few seconds - belugas!!! Barb and I ended up watching the 3 belugas for quite some time as they checked out the bay between the aptly named Beluga Point and Longridge Point. I was very impressed by not only their size but also their speed in the water - not quite what I expected!

Common Tern -  Longridge Point, James Bay

Beluga whale was a new addition to my Ontario whale list (the list is now up to 1 species). It trumped the rest of our sightings from this morning! 

The afternoon was hot and calm so we felt warranted to sit around and have a few beers. I photographed this azure. It would be considered a Spring Azure from the field guides, but it is very late in the year for a Spring Azure and is definitely not a Summer Azure. Some people consider the azures from around here a different species, as of yet undescribed.

azure sp. - Longridge Point, James Bay

August 12, 2012
The morning broke warm and sunny for the third day in a row - a nice change from the cool and rainy weather that had dominated the early part of the trip. On this day I hiked out to the west bay with Ian, but not before hanging out with the family of tame Ruffed Grouse that hung around camp!

Ruffed Grouse - Longridge Point, James Bay

There were four 3/4-sized babies and they seemed to enjoy themselves having a dustbath just off the side of the main path. Pretty cute!

Ruffed Grouse - Longridge Point, James Bay

The day got even better as we was scanning the usual crew of Canada Geese that hung out in West Bay. We heard an unusual goose sound and looked up to see a flock of 34 Snow Geese heading south! We radioded the rest of the crew and fortunately everybody else got on them. This seems really early for south bound Snow Geese, but what do I know.

The day was absolutely fantastic. We were off to a good start with a small flock of Whimbrels flying by. Our species total was up quickly with the addition of Killdeer, Semi Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Semi Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, both yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Hudsonian Godwit, and Dunlin. Walking in the grassy mudflats added a bunch of Pectoral Sandpipers, and in a nearby pool were some Short-billed Dowitchers. We came across a large group of Black-bellied Plovers on some drier areas and I quickly got on a juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper! This was a year-bird, my 5th of the trip and bringing me up to 326 for the year. While unsuccessfully trying to relocate it we came across an adult Baird's Sandpiper and adult American Golden-plover, bringing our shorebird total to 18 for the day! 

That evening I headed down to the creek to try to get some shorebird photos. A few Wilson's Snipes flushed and a Spotted Sandpiper called, giving me an even 20 species of shorebirds for the day. Some gulls were flying overhead and the light was just perfect.

Bonaparte's Gull - Longridge Point, James Bay

A nice Little Gull joined the fray.

Little Gull - Longridge Point, James Bay

The wind was calm, the mosquitoes weren't as friendly as usual, and I was able to get close to the shorebirds. This juvenile Greater Yellowlegs was more tolerant than most...

Greater Yellowlegs - Longridge Point, James Bay

Of course, I was focused again with the godwits since this would be one of my last opportunities to photograph this beautiful species. Its not often I see this species from so close!

Hudsonian Godwit - Longridge Point, James Bay

My last post will be up shortly, covering the last few days of the trip.

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