Monday 12 December 2016

Expedition to Netitishi - Days 1 and 2

Introduction and drive up - October 27 and 28, 2016
Days 1 and 2 - October 28 and 29, 2016
Days 3 and 4 - October 30 and 31, 2016
Days 5 and 6 - November 1 and 2, 2016
Days 7 and 8 - November 3 and 4, 2016
Days 9 and 10 - November 5 and 6, 2016
Days 11 and 12 - November 7 and 8, 2016
Days 13 and 14 - November 9 and 10, 2016
Days 15 and 16 - November 11 and 12, 2016
Days 17 and 18 - November 13 and 14, 2016

October 28, 2016
Weather:  3 to -2 degrees C, wind SW 10-20 km/h, overcast, light rain late afternoon through evening
5 species
eBird checklist here

Fifteen minutes after leaving Moosonee by helicopter we could see the tall spruces of Netitishi Point and the surrounding ridge looming in the distance, and several minutes later we had landed, unloaded, and bid farewell to the pilot. We watched the helicopter lift off, and within seconds our only evidence of the outside world was the distant whirr of the blades as the helicopter continued back to Moosonee. We had made it!

As you can see our bird list was rather sparse for the day. Other activities took priority today - namely, choosing and cleaning one of the cabins. Apparently a young Black Bear was wreaking havoc along this part of the James Bay coast, breaking into some of the cabins and creating a huge mess in each one. Every cabin at Netitishi Point had been pillaged by the rogue bear.

We cleaned out one of the newer cabins - large, insulated with a proper roof - burning much of the garbage in one of the barrels around the camp. Luckily I brought a bunch of cleaning supplies and by the time that the daylight began to fade the cabin was in perfect condition.

The only birds worth mentioning for today were a pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers just south of the camp. In my experience, Black-backed is the more unusual of the two boreal woodpeckers at Netitishi - American Three-toed is much easier to come by.

October 29, 2016
Weather: 1 to 5 to 5 degrees C, wind ENE to NNE 15-20 km/h, overcast most of day and clear by dusk, light rain/mist in AM
42 species
eBird checklist here

When looking at the weather forecast for the first few days of the trip October 29 stood out, as moderate northeast winds had been predicted. Fortunately the forecast held, and though the birding started out slow, eventually flocks of ducks and other waterfowl began moving past.

Todd and I counted nine flocks of Brant totaling 801 individuals, as well as 2050 Long-tailed Ducks, 140 Black Scoters and 69 White-winged Scoters among 12 total waterfowl species. The winds were not ideal for large numbers of Northern Pintails and other dabbling ducks however; they tend to migrate mostly on north or west winds.

Brant - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

Gulls and shorebirds are often well-represented this time of year at Netitishi during suitable weather conditions, and today was no exception. Among the migrating Herring Gulls we picked up singles of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls and nine Great Black-backed Gulls - the first of many to come as autumn transitions to winter. Dunlin and Sanderling numbers were down with only 50 and 110 of each, respectively, though plovers were well-represented as 74 Black-bellied and 6 American-Golden Plovers migrated past. We located a single White-rumped Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs as well.

Black-bellied Plovers - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

During the early afternoon I went for a walk around the cabins and was pleasantly surprised to encounter two kinglets - one of each species - with a little flock of chickadees. The Ruby-crowned was getting quite late for the location. Two Brown Creepers were also seen, as well as a single American Robin, American Pipit and American Tree Sparrow. We were happy to observe several Pine Grosbeaks at close range as well.

It was a great introduction to James Bay birding and we finished with 42 species - it would end up being the highest single day species total of the trip.

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