Wednesday, 24 September 2014


About 24 hours from now I will be on a train to Moosonee, and from there catching a helicopter to the shores of southern James Bay where I will spend two weeks with Alan Wormington, Jeremy Bensette and Kory Renaud. This will be my third autumn trip in three years to the James Bay coast - probably my favorite birding location in Ontario.

Netitishi is 21 miles due east of Moosonee, on a small point facing north along the south James Bay coast.

My previous two trips to the coast were with Alan Wormington and both fell on dates between October 21 and November 3. We had a bunch of good birds on both trips - here's a selection of the highlights:

October 21 to November 3, 2012
-Northern Fulmar (awesome!!)
-Great Cormorant (would have been the 1st record for northern Ontario, if it had been accepted by the OBRC....)
-shearwater sp. (Alan only! I'm really glad it was too far to ID...)
-Common Eider
-Northern Gannet (2nd record for northern Ontario)
-Western Kingbird
-Harlequin Duck, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Pomarine Jaegers, 2 Black-legged Kittiwakes (all OBRC review birds in the north)
-2 Black Guillemots
-plus Purple Sandpipers, Gyrfalcons, King Eiders, etc

October 24 to November 3, 2013
-Townsend's Solitaire (first record for Cochrane District!)
-Harlequin Duck
-tons of late shorebirds (12 Hudsonian Godwits between Oct 28 and 30, record late Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, American Golden-Plover)
-Golden Eagle, Red Phalarope, Short-eared Owl
-Gyrfalcon photoshoot

As you can see our first trip turned up way more rarities, but both trips have been very productive. Last year's trip, while still excellent bird-wise, did cause me to decide that I would not do another late autumn trip to Netitishi for a while. For one, the temperatures were very cold most of the time, and for most of the trip there were very few migrant passerines. The waterbird numbers were also way down as many had left the bay due to the late October freeze-up.

I have always wanted to do a late September to mid October trip to Netitishi. It seems that this time frame is extremely productive for birding in northern Ontario and a large number of rarities often show up then. We should be on the coast for peak flights for many waterbird species.  I think our chances at seabirds are better now than in early November. We may have lower chances at finding alcids, but we missed them last year anyways. What's most intriguing for me is the potential for rare passerines!

Netitishi has already proven itself to be a magnet for rare songbirds. In Alan and Brandon's mid November 2010 trip, they found a Varied Thrush. In 2012 Alan and I found a Western Kingbird. Then last year was the Townsend's Solitaire. And these were all during a time of year where very few songbirds were migrating. What if birders visited Netitishi during a period when songbirds were actually migrating?

One more thing is making this trip seem very exciting. I have heard from several birders that arctic breeding birds have had a good year. Already good numbers of jaegers, Sabine's Gulls, phalaropes etc have been showing up in the south in good numbers. Northern Wheatears have put in a strong showing too. If it is indeed true that the arctic had a good breeding season, then we could definitely benefit by being along the coast!

It is currently 18 and sunny with south winds in Moosonee and will be 24 degrees Celsius when we arrive on the coast Friday afternoon. These are good conditions to bring up a few southern vagrants to the north.

I've made a list of ten target birds that I have on my wishlist. I tried to make most of the selections here actually somewhat realistic, though most of these are crazy dream birds...I would be ecstatic to just get one of these species!!

Northern Wheatear
Say's Phoebe
Rock Wren
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Ross's Gull
Leach's Storm-petrel
Great Shearwater
Sage Thrasher
Swainson's Hawk

1 comment:

  1. Hope you get out to the coast on time this year ;) ... Weather forecast shows a very intense cold front pushing through on Sunday, and I'll be dying to hear about what sort of counts/rarities you'll get from it!