Sunday 11 November 2012

Netitishi days 10 and 11

Days 1 and 2 - October 21 - 22, 2012
Day 3 - October 23, 2012
Days 4 and 5 - October 24 - 25, 2012
Days 6 and 7 - October 26 - 27, 2012
Days 8 and 9 - October 28 - 29, 2012
Days 10 and 11 - October 30 - 31, 2012
Day 12 - November 1, 2012

October 30, 2012
Weather: 2 to 4 Celcius, overcast with light rain in the late afternoon, wind NNE 40-60 km/h 
Ebird checklist:
33 species

After the crazy weather we had on the previous day which brought us the Northern Fulmar, to say that Alan and I had high hopes for this day would be a huge understatement. I walked out to the coast first thing in the morning and the conditions looked great. The wind was strong out of the north and at low tide the water was already quite a ways in.

Unfortunately, it appeared that all of the waterfowl had cleared out of the bay on the previous day. We had 24,100 Brant yesterday, yet only 80 today. We had 3,300 x more Northern Pintail yesterday as well (today we only had two)! However the day was still incredible and once again, Alan and I rarely left the shelter. We ended up finding 6 birds which are rare enough that we have to submit documentation to the OBRC. To put that in perspective, I found only 1 OBRC-reviewable bird in all of 2011!

The first rarity was a nice dark morph Pomarine Jaeger that Alan picked up, lazily cruising the tideline in the mid-morning. We had great looks as it came right in front of us, eventually disappearing to the east. Certainly it was migrating. This is one example of a species which is probably regular at James Bay, but no one is looking so it is still considered a rarity! The bird was still a little distant to photograph properly, but I did get a few record shots. Very poor quality, as you can see!

Pomarine Jaeger (small crop)

Here is another photo in the series, heavily cropped. You can somewhat see the double white flash in the primaries.

Pomarine Jaeger (heavy crop)

Next up was a 1st cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull cruising by with a flock of Herring Gulls that Alan noticed coming along the tide-line. This was a new one for my Cochrane list and another "write-up" bird.

Pom #2 was a little distant, but looked similar to the first one. A very dark juvenile bird. No photos this time (you are welcome!).

Lesser Black-backed #2 was a carbon copy of the first - a 1st cycle bird traveling with a group of migrating Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls. Not the most exciting find, but still a write-up bird. I was ready with the camera and was lucky to get a few record shots.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull (bottom left)

I've said it before, but I'll mention it again. Getting photos at Netitishi is hard! First of all, the birds are always distant. Often they are close enough to see well with a spotting scope but good luck getting a decent image! I am limited to a 300 mm lens which is nowhere near the magnification of my scope. Second, the birds are constantly moving. And if the bird does land in the water right in front, chances are the waves will be large enough that 90% of the time the bird isn't visible. Because of this, you have to ready with your camera at all times just to have a chance of getting a record photo. I think on the next trip, I will bring a second tripod and have my camera set up at all times. I missed getting documentation photos of several birds simply because I had my lens cap on, or the camera was resting out of arm's reach, etc.

Our 5th write-up bird of the day was a Harlequin Duck flying by at mach 10. The winds had blown it in to shore so far that it missed crashing into our shelter by a few feet!

The 6th and final write-up bird was a group of two Black-legged Kittiwakes. I was sitting back, not using my scope, when I saw a gull very close to the shelter and heading out towards the tide-line. A kittiwake! We had great looks as it flew out over the mudflats. Alan noticed a second kittiwake not far behind. This was another year bird, bringing me up to 340 species for the year. Little did we know that in southern Ontario, birders on Lake Ontario were seeing close to 100 Kittiwakes, along with MEGA rare birds in Leach's Storm-petrel and Wilson's Storm-petrel. It is probably for the best we didn't have internet to read about that!

Other interesting birds seen throughout the day included 7 King Eiders (flocks of 3 or 4, all female), about 30 Red-throated Loons, a couple of groups of Black-bellied Plovers, 7 Glaucous Gulls, and a beautiful white-morph Gyrfalcon that was hovering above the spruces, probably looking for birds crashing into the trees. We had virtually no land birds today, including 0 species of finches!

October 31, 2012
Weather: 2 to 4 Celcius, overcast with light rain and heavy fog, winds NW to N, 20-30 km/h 
Ebird Checklist:
16 species

What a stark contrast to yesterday. The fog rolled in, reducing visibility seriously, and the rain never really let up for long. At least the winds were out of the north. Alan spent a good amount of time seawatching, though I only went out for a few brief stints. We had exactly 1 duck today (a Red-breasted Merganser), and nearly missed Ring-billed Gull for the day! The only highlights were two suspected record late dates for James Bay: the continuing Baird's Sandpiper (Alan only) and a Wilson's Snipe (Josh only).

Chopper coming tomorrow!

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