Monday 26 December 2016

Netitishi Point - Day 11 and 12

Weather: 7 to 15 to 9 degrees C, wind S 30-40 km/h most of day and W 30 km/h gusting to 50-60 km/h by dusk, clear skies with some light cloud cover in aft, some light rain in early evening
25 species

The warm south winds continued through the night so that the temperature was a balmy 8 degrees Celsius at dawn. Today's weather was a carbon copy of yesterday's, only 5 degrees warmer (we reached 16 degrees today!) and a bit windier. The haze over the water was absolutely terrible and we were only able to make out a few Red-breasted Mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks on the bay - our only waterfowl for the day.

Needing to kill time and hoping to increase my odds of a rare songbird with southern origins I decided to complete the 7 km roundtrip hike to Little Netitishi Point, covering the entire coastline and some of the meadows to the east. Some loose trills caught the attention of my ears while I was completing a cursory scan of the bay before heading out. Bohemian Waxwings! Todd noticed them as well, his first of the trip. I was fortunate in being in the right place at the right time, and I took a handful of photos of them in the sun.

Bohemian Waxwings - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

Bohemian Waxwings - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

The walk to the east was fairly birdless, but it felt great to be wearing a t-shirt with the warm breeze on my skin. I found a few lingering birds in the meadow - Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and a late American Tree Sparrow - but nothing of an apparent southern origin. The winds kept blowing and many seed pods of the various plants released in to the wind; It almost looked like it was snowing.

A small flock of Common Redpolls had evidently just flown in off of the bay, and they fed on the cones of a small tamarack near the cabins. I took advantage of the nice sunlight and photographed a few of the individuals.

Common Redpoll - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

Common Redpoll - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

That afternoon I had my final bath of the trip in the creek. The water was still ice cold, but the warm air made things slightly more bearable!

As sea-watching was useless we called it quits by 4 PM, had our last beer of the trip (we rationed poorly), and chopped some more firewood. In the evening we had our first campfire of the trip - it was a beautiful night for it, even though it was still a bit windy. While the blast of heat from the south was a nice diversion, we are ready for some proper November weather, and hopefully the birds that come with!

sunset over the marsh by the cabins at Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

November 8, 2016
Weather: 7 to 4 to 0 degrees C, wind WNW to NNW 30-40 km/h gusting to 55 km/h, heavy overcast most of day, scattered light showers in AM and brief snowsqualls in PM
31 species

Fortunately for us, the winds had shifted through the night and we were met with moderate northwest winds at the sea-watching shelter. These winds increased in intensity throughout the day but it was no use and birding was very slow, limited to a few scoters and Long-tailed Ducks as bands of precipitation passed through the area. A decent bout of rain sent me back to the cabins by mid-morning, with Todd tracing my steps twenty minutes later. We were thinking that today would be a good candidate for the fewest number of species out of any day this trip.

There were two somewhat interesting birds in the morning. The first was a Spruce Grouse that flew over me while I still had my pants down in the woods, and the second was a Black-backed/Three-toed Woodpecker that flew over the marsh, neither of which I could relocate.

The winds continued strong out of the northwest as the temperature dropped so Todd and I relocated to the shelter, where we would stay continuously from 11 AM until sunset. The birding soon picked up despite occasional periods of snow flurries. While most of the flocks of Brant and dabbling ducks have undoubtedly moved through we encounter a few small flocks. Among the Northern Pintails were a handful of Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon, though the biggest surprise was a drake Gadwall that we watched with a flock of Northern Pintails, almost certainly a record late date for southern James Bay.

Scoters were also on the move today. Most were Black Scoters, but a few individual White-winged Scoters and one Surf Scoter were also seen. King Eider was on my mind all day, and in the two minutes Todd was away from his scope I spotted a female King Eider (Queen Eider?). Todd came back running, but it had already disappeared down the coast. Fortunately for him, he redeemed himself shortly after by finding his own King Eider.

Seawatching at Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

Another big highlight was a Black Guillemot that I picked up in flight. The views were a little more distant than the birds from the previous two days, though the viewing conditions were much better leading to clear views. Todd trained his scope on the guillemot as well for a few seconds before we lost sight of the bird in a wave trough. I headed back to the cabins to fetch my camera, while Todd discovered a second Black Guillemot and a King Eider while I was gone.

Needless to say we remained focused on the bay for the rest of the day; our first decent migration in days. I think my eye spent more time trained through my scope's eyepiece than looking elsewhere throughout the afternoon. Highlights kept coming - a flock of Black-bellied Plovers, several Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, a total of 7 King Eiders, 2 Purple Sandpipers, etc. We finally called it quits when it was too dark to see anymore, happy with our sightings during an excellent seawatch. Despite only seeing 32 species on the day (about average), we observed 29 non-passerines, what would end up being the highest total of the trip.

Laura gave me a weather update in the evening - south winds on November 9, but northwest winds again on November 10 and 11, followed by southwest winds to close out the trip. 

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