Friday, 4 November 2016

Five rarities that will show up at Netitishi (eventually!)

By the time this auto-posts, Todd and I will have been on the coast of James Bay for a week, if all had gone to plan.

I've touched on the potential for rare birds to show up in southern James Bay in the past (in nearly every post I write about Netitishi, probably). Every expedition to Netitishi Point has found several notable species, some of which had few or no records for Ontario. But potential remains for a wide variety of seabirds and other ocean-going species which would be considered mega-rares if and when they are found. While it is unlikely that any of these will be seen on this year's trip, I am sure that the following species do show up or fly by from time to time. The question of course is whether anyone will be stationed at Netitishi Point when they do make an appearance!

Great Skua
This big arctic bully breeds in Scandinavia, Iceland and the UK, wintering throughout the north Atlantic where they terrorize gulls for fish and other scraps. Great Skuas regularly make it all the way to North American waters where they are not too unusual of a sight on east coast pelagics during autumn and winter. Given their tendency to wander, they likely make it to Hudson's Bay from time to time.

Great Shearwater
Like most seabirds, Great Shearwaters are known to wander over great distances. They breed in Tristan da Cunha and surrounding islands, located halfway between Africa and South America in the south Atlantic, and are one of few bird species to migrate to the northern hemisphere after completing their southern hemisphere breeding. Great Shearwaters are one of the most frequently observed tubenoses in the north Atlantic and regularly wander into Baffin Bay and further into the arctic. There are several records from western Hudson Bay.

Leach's Storm-Petrel
This species has been observed once previously in southern James Bay - a bird that Alan Wormington found on October 8, 1981 at the Attawapiskat waterfront. This is another super-abundant Atlanic tubenose species that is prone to wander.

Yellow-billed Loon
Thousands of loons migrate past Netitishi Point every year, yet most are too distant to see much detail on. The interesting thing about Yellow-billed is that their Arctic breeding range comes close to the western shore of Hudson's Bay and individuals were detected in northern Manitoba during the recent breeding bird atlas. While Yellow-billed Loons winter off the coast of Alaska, this species is prone to vagrancy and there are records throughout much of the lower 48 and southern Canada. It wouldn't take much for one to fly southeast instead of west, and follow the coast of Hudson's Bay into James Bay.

Ross's Gull
This is one species that should fly past Netitishi relatively frequently, I would think. This Arctic breeder, one of the most sought after of North American birds, is known to occasionally wander south into southern Canada and the United States, as well as into western Europe. In fact Ontario has almost a dozen records already, including the first provincial record which was a bird that Ken Abraham found in Moosonee in May, 1983. These gulls are fairly distinctive and should be a relatively straightforward identification if they are within ~2 km of land. In later October and November any small gull species is rare at Netitishi Point and will be scrutinized.


Tyler said...

two words... Steller's Eider

Josh Vandermeulen said...

Oh man, can you imagine!