Friday, 25 October 2013

Rare birds that could show up at Netitishi

Just for fun, I've decided to go through and come up with some ideas of rare birds that could show up at Netitishi. The usual caveats apply (i.e. we probably won't see any of these species), but what the heck!
I guess you could say this is a wish list. This is a pre-written post. Hopefully by the time this is published we have been on the coast for a few days and seen some kick-ass birds!


Actually possible birds:

Ivory Gull - Doug McRae found one on one of the first Netitshi trips (November 13, 1981). I actually think that Ivory Gulls are fairly regular along the Hudson's and James Bay coasts in late autumn and winter, but no one is up there looking. We may be on the early side to run into an Ivory Gull, but than again you never know.

Dovekie - Brandon and Alan saw two separate Dovekies on their 2010 Netitishi trip, and last November Andrew Keaveney reported one when he went up there. All three of these records were in November, and these constitute the only records for northern Ontario. Clearly Netitishi is a very special place that already has a history of getting Dovekies (albeit in a very small sample size). Again, we may be on the early side, but you never know. Especially if we hit the jackpot with cold, north winds.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - long overdue for the southern James Bay region! The area around Netitishi Point seems like a magnet for rare flycatchers. The habitat is perfect with  forest edge and lots of elevated perches (dead trees etc). With us standing out at the coast 9+ hours a day, almost any flycatcher that flops on by would be seen by us, especially something obvious like a Scissor-tailed! The Western Kingbird last year was on November 1st, so clearly our trip this year won't be too late in the year for insect eating birds like flycatchers.

Thick-billed Murre - Ah, the infamous "large Alcid sp.". They probably had one in 1981. Last autumn I may have had one. It sure looked OK but the views were extremely brief before the bird disappeared behind the massive swells caused by 80+ km/h north winds. Thick-billed Murres breed directly north of Netitishi in the Arctic, but the trouble would be to separate it from the similar Common Murre and Razorbill.


Would be crazy, but not unheard of:

Yellow-billed Loon - Ontario has several records of this species, and considering the breeding range of Yellow-billed Loon (pretty much the entire Canadian Arctic) it's really surprising that it has never been recorded before on the Hudson's or James Bay coast. Then again, this is probably because birders have spent a total of maybe 4 months combined on the James Bay coast in October and November. Netitishi sees a lot of loons migrate past though most are quite distant. The trick would be to find the loon holding a banana in it's mouth.

Ash-throated Flycatcher - this is a species that typically shows up in the northeast in November. Ontario has  accepted records of Ash-throated Flycatcher including 5 records from October 27 until November 24. Again, Netitshi looks great for flycatchers! Say's Phoebe is another candidate. It is a hardy flycatcher (breeds all the way up in northern Alaska!) and prone to vagrancy.

Great Shearwater - this would be a MEGA mega. Only one previous Ontario record (a bird found in a weakened state in Toronto in August) , would make it seem like an incredibly unlikely bird to get at Netitishi in October/November. The only thing is that Great Shearwaters range all the way up to Greenland and the southeast coast of Baffin Island. There are several records from the west shore of Hudson's Bay. One could easily end up lost and be pushed down into James Bay.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - the group who went to Netitishi in 2010 may have seen one of these, but the bird flew down the coast never to be seen again. This is a Eurasian species that is prone to vagrancy and that has shown up in Ontario on three previous occasions.


Absolutely insane birds (this is really wishful thinking!):

White Wagtail - they like hanging out with pipits. Netitishi Point often has a lot of pipits. They are prone to vagrancy. There are several records directly adjacent to Ontario, including 3(!) for Michigan and a recent one in Quebec.

Long-billed Murrelet - Ontario has one record of Long-billed Murrelet, a record of a bird found by Bruce DiLabio in Cornwall. This species is prone to wandering, and Netitishi Point is a great spot to see lost alcids! Quite a few of the 20 or so records for inland North America are from October and November.

Tufted Puffin - sure, why not?

Steller's Eider - they breed in Alaska/Siberia, yet some winter in Scandinavia, and there are records for the Canadian Arctic...


Now don't get me wrong, even if we do not see any rarities it will still be a kick-ass trip. There is nothing quite like living out of a rustic cabin with no internet, no phone, and no other people for two weeks straight. That alone will make the trip worth it for me and it will be a much needed break from my office and living in the Greater Toronto Area! The James Bay coastline is a beautiful and rugged place in late autumn. Watching the weather unfold in front of you here can be an amazing experience, and it is easy to see the direct relationship between weather and bird migration. On certain days an astounding amount of visible migration takes place. And this is what got me into the crazy hobby of birding in the first place - the game of birding/rarity-finding and experiencing nature go hand in hand and I'm not sure which is more important to me. Plus of course, even if we are stuck with south winds and a lack of birds all trip, we will probably still see things like Black Guillemot, Gyrfalcon, Purple Sandpiper, and other sweet northern birds.

But really, the chance at seeing a rarity is the driving force that brings me up to Netitishi! And our two weeks at Netitishi will give Alan and I as good a chance as any to see a mega.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I'm excited to hear about what you do find! Best of luck!