Wednesday, 17 October 2012

How many year-birds will I get on James Bay?

Less than two days until I leave for the north!!! Woo!!!

So, how could Netitishi help my year list?

In the autumn of 2010, Brandon Holden and Alan Wormington spent several weeks in November sea-watching from Netitishi Point. In the two weeks, they managed to see 6 species that would be potential year birds for me: Purple Sandpiper, Gyrfalcon, Black-legged Kittiwake, Pacific Loon, Dovekie (2 birds), and the aforementioned shearwater. And that was with only getting about one day of north winds!

On the other hand, the crew that went up last year was "blessed" with warm, south winds for most of the trip. They only saw two birds which would be new for my big year: Purple Sandpiper and Gyrfalcon (however then had some "probable" Pacific Loons too).

For quite a while, I debated whether it was worth it for me to do this Netitishi trip. I'm quite sure that I will miss a few potential year birds in southern Ontario while I am gone, and perhaps all hell will break loose and I'll be kicking myself for going! But on the other hand, I am only 5 away from setting a new big year record and Netitishi should, at the very least, give me about 3 year birds. I've done a lot of thinking about it and I think that on average, a Netitishi trip would be better than not going.

The main target species, apart from rarities, that I hope to see at Netitishi Point is Gyrfalcon. This huge arctic falcon is one of those birds that you read about but not one I really expect to see. Seeing one of these beautiful raptors has long been a goal of mine and fortunately James Bay is the place to go! Gyrfalcons have been seen on every late fall Netitishi Point trip that birders have gone on. However, only two gyrs were seen on last years trip, and only two on the trip the previous November. Gyrfalcon is by no means guaranteed but I would think I have at least a 75% chance of seeing one.

Gyrfalcon (from wikipedia)

Purple Sandpiper is another one which we should get. It is only a code 2 species and I will probably have the opportunity to chase one when I am back home in November. But, it is one that I can hopefully get out of the way now to save me a trip to Presqui'le later in November. I believe that Purple Sands have been seen on every late autumn Netitishi trip as well.

Black-legged Kittiwake and Pacific Loon are both Code-3 birds and species that I have a decent chance at seeing. On the 2010 trip, 3 kittiwakes and 1 Pacific Loon were seen. On last years trip, 0 kittiwakes and the probable Pac Loons were seen. I am really hoping to get one of the two species - preferably Pacific Loon!

Pacific Loon (from wikipedia)

And finally, rarities. I will be very happy if we manage to see one rarity which is a year bird. Northern Fulmar is obviously the leading candidate but other strong possibilities include Dovekie, a shearwater/storm petrel, Ivory Gull, Northern Gannet, Common Eider, or a rare passerine.

I think that I will get somewhere between 2 and 5 year birds on this trip. My goal is 4, which would tie the big year record.


Alan Wormington said...

We need to have some booze on hand, in case you break the record while at Netitishi!

Brandon Holden said...

Sounds like a party to me ;)