Wednesday 21 December 2016

Expedition to Netitishi - Days 5 and 6

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

November 1, 2016
Weather: 0 to 6 to 2 degrees C, wind SW 20 km/h shifting to SE 10 km/h, sun and clouds in AM and overcast in PM, scattered periods of light rain/mist, rain at dusk
26 species
eBird checklist here

The birding was slow today for a number of reasons. High tide was around 5 PM meaning that the majority of the day passed by when the tide was near its low water mark. The winds, what little there were, came out of the south or southeast. Finally, we also had to contend with light mist and occasional showers. Not much at all was migrating, though we did see higher than usual numbers of Boreal Chickadees (about six) and also a flock of seven Pine Grosbeaks. But it was very slim pickings in the way of waterbirds! At least a number of gulls were meandering back and forth over the flats including some 200 Ring-billed Gulls, providing something to look at. Herring Gulls were also well-represented and two immature Glaucous Gulls along with 3 Great Black-backed Gulls made appearances throughout the day. That was pretty much it - ducks were scarce and any other waterbirds were completely absent. I killed time during the day by finishing chopping down a tree I had started earlier to improve our sight lines down the coast, then made good progress on the second tree. By mid-afternoon it too had been felled, along with some of the dogwoods which were in the way. One has to be careful at Netitishi to ration the chores that need to be done - there is no need to be efficient as that will just mean that you will have nothing to do later in the day!

Creek west of the cabins - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

Rain started to fall by 5:30 PM or so, just as we arrived back at the cabin as the sun was low on the horizon. I chopped some wood but mostly just relaxed beside the wood stove, glowing as the fire dried out the pair of boots I had soaked during the previous day's adventures. At this point we are a quarter of the way through the trip - four full days down, twelve to go. Once we receive the next bout of north winds I anticipate that water birds will be moving in big numbers, since it seems to be a bit late this autumn. Luckily our trip is long enough that we are bound to experience some excellent days of migration, and we are staying late enough into November to increase our odds of species like Black Guillemot, Dovekie, Gyrfalcon and Northern Fulmar, not to mention shearwaters or other wacky seabirds. The potential of the next twelve days is high, and we will be ready. 

November 2, 2016
Weather: 3 to 8 to 2 degrees C, wind S 10-20 km/h, SW 20 km/h by dusk, sun and clouds with periods of light rain early AM and at dusk
37 species
eBird checklist here

It was our fourth straight day of winds with a southerly component, though this was not entirely surprising since southwest seems to be the default wind direction at Netitishi Point in the autumn. It was frustrating nonetheless. As high tide was around 5:00 AM and 5;00 PM, the best part of the birding day occurred during the low tide, which was especially low for a second straight day. That being said, there usually appears to be some sort of push of waterbirds most days during the morning, even if the winds are from the wrong direction. Today the flight was lighter than usual but we eventually did see most of the common waterbird species including a few scoters and three Common Loons. Todd found the best birds of the day - two male Canvasbacks - that winged on by while I was back at the cabins. Canvasback is especially unusual in southern James Bay and there are around five total records for the region.

wolf prints in the sand - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

That afternoon the tide had only just started to come in and so I left for an excursion to the east down the coast. It was a relatively comfortable afternoon (about 7 degrees C) and the sun occasionally peeked through the clouds as the moderate south winds blew. The meadows east of the point held a surprising number of birds, including 30+ Horned Larks and 55+ Lapland Longspurs, the latter being the first of the trip. I did not find much else other then a couple of American Tree Sparrows, and a hoped for Short-eared Owl did not flush from the meadow either.

shoreline at the meadows east of Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

After picking my way around the wetter sections of the meadow I reached the shoreline and continued hiking the remaining distance to the next point of land which we have been calling Little Netitishi Point, located about 3.5 km past Netitishi Point. After a short break I hiked back, feeling a little tired but rejuvenated as I returned.

looking west from Little Netitishi towards Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

In the evening I was able to get through to Laura, my parents, and Jeremy Bensette on the satellite phone that Kory Renaud had lent me prior to the trip. Jeremy provided a much needed weather forecast - while southwest winds will still dominate, two out of the next three days had forecasted northwest winds. Tomorrow should spur on migration!

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