Monday 2 January 2017

Netitishi Point - Days 13 and 14

Weather: -2 to 5 to 5 degrees C, wind S shifting to W 15-30 km/h, mostly overcast with sunny patches, light dusting of snow overnight melted by afternoon
31 species

A light dusting of snow had fallen overnight and by dawn it was calm and clear. The snow-laden spruces topped with Pine Grosbeaks while distant Gray Jays called was a beautiful scene to take in,  as I sat on the porch eating a bacon and egg wrap and sipping hot chocolate.

We arrived at the coast to begin our watch as the tide approached. The winds were out of the west (slightly better than the southwest that was forecast) and a few birds were moving, including a Snowy Owl that landed for a few minutes on the flats in front of us until the incoming tide flushed it further down the coast. Some ducks were moving sporadically, including 2 King Eiders and decent numbers of scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers. A distant flock of Snow Geese also passed by, a nice surprise given the date.

Red Squirrel - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

Around 9:00 AM we experienced a pretty interesting series of events. It all started when I noticed a small whitish shorebird along the tideline was Todd was fixing one of our sea-watching markers. A Red Phalarope! I called it out to Todd and he came sprinting back. Fortunately the phalarope decided to linger just on the far side of the creek, and we had decent views of the bird as it fed in the shallows.

Red Phalarope - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

This was yet another life bird for Todd so he was pretty thrilled. We set out on foot to hopefully get closer for photos. Just after crossing the creek, while scanning the flats for the phalarope, we picked up on another Black Guillemot, this one in flight and at relatively close range. Our fifth sighting of the trip!

Eventually I located a small gray shorebird further down the flats and so we set off after it, assuming it was the Red Phalarope. It ended up being a Sanderling, however, and it flushed as we approached. Out of nowhere a white blur entered the frame of my scope and took off after the Sanderling - it was a white-morph Gyrfalcon! The Sanderling zigged and zagged and somehow eluded the massive falcon, which continued on down the coast. Todd and I were nearly speechless, but the adventure was not over. The Gyrfalcon flushed up a second shorebird further down the coast which turned and headed in our direction - it was the Red Phalarope. We watched as the Gyrfalcon tried to catch the plump little shorebird, but it too evaded the falcon and eventually flew right past Todd and I. What a frantic few minutes, and a great example of why I love coming back to the James Bay coast.

A lost-looking adult Double-crested Cormorant was our last good bird before the tide was too low and the heat haze made long-distance sea-watching pretty useless. Tomorrow and the next day are scheduled northwest winds, likely our last two days with decent winds for the trip, so we will definitely make the most of them. Fingers crossed!

Red Fox - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

November 10, 2016
Weather: 6 to 7 to 2 degrees C, wind SW to W 5-15 km/h, by early evening wind shifted to NW 30-40 km/h, heavy overcast with showers in afternoon
21 species

Today was likely the slowest day of the trip so far and Todd and I struggled to reach 21 species of birds. We sat vigilantly at the sea-watching shelter, waiting for the winds to pick up in intensity to spur on migration. By mid-morning a light breeze began blowing, but it was from the southwest, slowly shifting to the west. By early afternoon the cloud ceiling had descended and light mist began to fall, slowly turning into rain as the west winds continued. With nothing better to do, Todd and I manned our posts at the coast. There is no point wasting daylight in the cabins when it gets dark out by 4:30 PM each day, leaving a gap of 5 hours to kill before bed time.

Todd and I killed some time by re-writing several songs, coming up with Netitishi-inspired lyrics to represent what we were thinking on this dreary day without any birds to look at or things to do. We definitely are starting to go a little crazy!

Our one highlight of the day was not a bird, but our first seal species of the trip (and Todd's first ever in Ontario). This Bearded Seal spent a few minutes at various points throughout the morning sunning itself on one of the rocks as the tide was coming in.

Bearded Seal - Netitishi Point, Cochrane District

Fortunately right around dusk the winds shifted almost instantaneously to the northwest and by the evening they were really howling. That certainly improved our morale! It was quite enjoyable to sit beside the wood stove in the evening as it dried out my clothes, while reading "The Birds of Peru", (my current choice of light reading material). Anticipation was high for the next day - hopefully the winds would continue through the night to give us one more exciting blast of migration before the trip concludes.  

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