Monday 1 December 2014

Netitishi Day 7

Day 1: September 26, 2014
Day 2: September 27, 2014
Day 3: September 28, 2014
Day 4: September 29, 2014
Day 5: September 30, 2014
Day 6: October 1, 2014
Day 7: October 2, 2014
Day 8: October 3, 2014
Day 9: October 4, 2014
Day 10: October 5, 2014
Day 11: October 6, 2014
Day 12: October 7, 2014
Days 13 and 14: October 8 and 9, 2014

October 2, 2014
Weather: 10 to 14 to 12 degrees C, wind ESE to S, 20-30 km/h, light overcast with occasional scattered showers
Ebird checklist:
48 species

This morning we awoke to warm temperatures and almost no wind, but we headed out to the coast anyways to see what was going on. While ducks were few and far between, a group of 3 Horned Grebes passed by together and eight Snow Geese flew south, high up over the bay. By mid-morning I was sitting at the coast with Jeremy and Kory watching the relatively few waterbirds going by. Behind me, some sparrows were chipping - just the usual White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and American Tree Sparrows. As I was watching them a small gray bird flitted into some nearby alders. A quick look with the binoculars revealed it to be another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. I quickly got Kory on the bird before it flushed deeper into the thicket. Unfortunately I did not get any photos of this one!

Considering that the other gnatcatcher was found only three days ago, and that many of the small flocks of songbirds seem to travel up and down the ridge, passing through the cabin area, it is likely that this could be the same bird involved.

While Jeremy and Alan decided to search for the gnatcatcher, I checked for it along the coastline to the east, while at the same time hoping to see what other birds may be around on such a calm day. Many sparrows were feeding in the grasses and on the beach in front of the treeline, and while relatively skittish, it did not take too long for a group to get accustomed to my presence and fly back out onto the open sand. Quite a few White-crowned Sparrows were around, joining the ranks of the American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Some of the sparrow species, such as White-throated and Fox, tended to stick to the dark understorey of the spruces along the edge.

Fox Sparrow - Netitishi Point

Occasional groups of Boreal Chickadees passed through as well, remaining elusive at the top of the spruces. Some would venture out into the open, providing great looks of this somewhat shy species.

Boreal Chickadee - Netitishi Point

As the birding was excellent, I continued on past the point to follow the coastline to the southeast. This area is sheltered on days that are either calm or with southwest winds and birds can be found all along the stretch. After a while some shrubby willow/alder stands grow along the edge of the treeline, and they too can sometimes hold birds. As I passed by the second stand, another small gray bird suddenly appeared! It too flitted quickly, soon after I had identified it as a Blue-gray Gnatatcher. Luckily it did not go far and I was able to take a few distant record photos. I ended up observing it about five times over the coast of half an hour or so as I foraged for insects in the branches.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Netitishi Point

While the first bird today may have been the same one seen on September 30, this second bird was new. While I was photographing this bird, Alan and Jeremy had just finished photographing the other one near the opening north of the cabins. Additionally, this bird stuck to the same small patch of bushes the whole time I was there, and was later seen by Kory in the same area. It certainly looked like a small "invasion" of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers may have arrived - small sample size and all! Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have an established period of vagrancy to the north in the autumn, and now there are six or seven records for the southern James Bay area of which most have been during September/October.

Eventually the gnatcatcher disappeared for a while and so I continued on down the coast to sift through more sparrows and maybe find another southern vagrant. While that did not happen, I did flush this Clay-colored Sparrow from some tall grasses. It ended up sitting tight in a tree along the edge of the grassy area, allowing decent, though somewhat distant views and photos. This bird is likely a local breeder - considering the relatively mild fall up to this point it is not surprising that some Clay-colored Sparrows could still be around.

Clay-colored Sparrow - Netitishi Point

A few other odds and ends were around today - Alan had an Orange-crowned Warbler near the camp, several Purple Finches were vocal in the spruces in the afternoon, and two Ruddy Turnstones flew by the shoreline, heading west.

That evening the temperature was still hovering around 12 degrees, the wind was warm out of the south, and some Mink Frogs and Spring Peepers called away from the wetland beside the cabins. The blackflies and mosquitoes were still biting, making it feel more like a late summer night than an October night.

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