Todd and I have returned from the windswept shores of James Bay after an awesome three weeks of northern Ontario birding. As usual for this under-birded part of Ontario, we were fortunate in observing a variety of species considered unusual for the area, as well as most of the regular species which are rare in the "Banana Belt" of southwestern Ontario where I live.
We observed five species on the Ontario Bird Records Committee (OBRC) review list for the Lowlands region of Ontario, including:
- Eurasian Wigeon - 1 male on Nov 3
- Harlequin Duck - 3 female types on Oct 30
- Western Sandpiper - 1 on Oct 30
- Sabine's Gull - 1 adult on Nov 11
- Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1 adult on Oct 31
|Harlequin Ducks - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District (October 28, 2016)|
Additionally, a Western/Clark's Grebe was observed on Nov 11. If accepted by the OBRC this will be a new species pair for the Lowlands review list. In my original Ontbirds post I mentioned this bird was a Western Grebe; however I am not positive that I can eliminate Clark's Grebe, as unlikely as it is with no prior records for Ontario, based on the looks that I had of the bird.
The following observations are of species generally considered rare in this part of Ontario:
- 2 male Canvasbacks on Nov 2
- 1 Red-necked Grebe on Nov 5
- 1 Purple Sandpiper on Nov 5, 2 on Nov 8
- 1 Red Phalarope on Nov 9
- 5 sightings of Black Guillemot on 3 different days (Nov 6, Nov 8, Nov 9)
Birds that were fairly late included:
- 11 Snow Geese on Nov 9
- 1 male Gadwall on Nov 8
- 2 Surf Scoter on Nov 11
- 4 Hooded Mergansers on Oct 31
- 1 adult Double-created Cormorant on Nov 9
- 1 juvenile Northern Goshawk on Nov 14
- 1 adult American Golden-Plover continuing until Nov 7
- 1 Pectoral Sandpiper on Oct 30
- 1 Golden-crowned Kinglet continuing until Nov 7
- 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet on Oct 29
- 2 American Pipit on Oct 31
- 9 American Tree Sparrows on Nov 1, and 1 staying until Nov 7
As expected given the time of year, Gyrfalcons were regular and we finished with sightings on five days, involving at least four different birds. All of the expected boreal birds were accounted for, including Spruce Grouse, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Bohemian Waxwing, Evening Grosbeak (not actually too common in southern James Bay), Pine Grosbeak and Hoary Redpoll. Snowy Owls were frequently seen during the second half of the trip and one highlight was watching one repeated dive-bombed by a Gyrfalcon.
|American Three-toed Woodpecker - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District (November 6, 2016)|
The dominant wind direction at southern James Bay in the autumn is southwest in my experience, and this trend continued throughout this trip as we experienced southwesterly winds on all but four days. Strong southwest winds and warm weather occurred during November 6 and 7, with the temperature reaching a balmy 16 degrees on November 7. This caused numerous insects to be seen including several Mourning Cloaks, though we were unable to find any birds with southern origins associated with this weather event.
|Mourning Cloak - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District (November 6, 2016)|
A moderate northwest wind on November 3 instigated a good waterbird flight that included 4681 Brant, 3755 Northern Pintail, 102 American Wigeon, 89 Green-winged Teal, 1710 Dunlin, etc. Strong northwest winds on November 11 also caused a good flight dominated by scoters and Long-tailed Ducks, though we also observed 25 King Eiders (35 total were seen on our trip) and the aforementioned Sabine's Gull and Western/Clark's Grebe.
Finally, while not bird related, we had a couple of interesting mammal sightings. These included a Bearded Seal on Nov 10 and a Beluga on November 14. Ringed Seals were not observed despite usually being somewhat common at this location.
Arriving back in Moosonee on November 14, Todd and I stashed our gear at the local restaurant in town and went for a walk to the sewage lagoons and dump to see what was happening. We discovered a Mountain Bluebird at a cemetery located only a few hundred meters from the sewage lagoons - a rarity in Ontario, and in particular the Lowlands, with only one prior record (also of a bird in Moosonee), from May 8-11, 2011. We watched the little beaut for about 10 minutes as it foraged and perched on the headstones, before it flew up over the poplars towards the lagoons. For some reason I had decided to do the walk sans camera - after all, it was going to be a long walk carrying the thing and we weren't really expecting anything rare, given the late date. While Todd walked to the lagoons to search for the bluebird I hopped in a taxi to take me back into town to fetch my camera, returning an hour or so later. Unfortunately we couldn't re-find it despite spending the rest of the afternoon looking.
It was an awesome trip and I will be posting daily summaries in the upcoming weeks - stay tuned.