Tuesday 2 October 2018

James Bay 2018: Part Four

This past summer I was given the opportunity to volunteer for the James Bay Shorebird Project on the coast of James Bay, north of Moosonee. For two weeks from August 13th to August 27th, I was stationed at Longridge Point, the most northern of the three survey sites in the project.

James Bay 2018:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight


August 18, 2018

We had a morning survey on this day, and since my foot was feeling better, I went along. I decided to head out a bit early and wait for the rest of the crew at "the wrack". As soon as I arrived, I spotted a flock of eight geese flying south not too far off shore. The sun was at their backs, so I wasn't able to see any detail on them. They seemed to be flying "odd" so I put my scope on them, and was pleased to see they were Snow Geese, the first flock of the season! I radioed back to camp, and everyone got to see them. A nice start to the day!

We started the survey about half a kilometer north of "the wrack" and then made our way to the tip of Longridge Point, where we'd finish the survey. We stopped in at the "forested island", (which we later dubbed "fantasy island") to see what songbirds were around. This spot isn't really an "island" but it is a stand of trees on the ridge about a kilometer away from the nearest forest. It seems like the perfect vagrant trap, hence our name for it :-)

We saw the usual suspects, including large numbers of Palm Warblers. The real excitement happened when a large-ish finch was spotted briefly before disappearing into a bush. It was very red, so Purple Finch was considered, but something seemed off. We were about to move on when the culprit jumped out of the bush. It was a Common Redpoll!  The bird was perfectly content feeding on strawberries only mere feet from us. It was certainly a time where I wish I had my camera, but I think my digiscopes turned out okay!

It was a pretty average survey (especially compared to what our NEXT Longridge Point Survey was going to be...). Lots of Black Scoters, with a few White-winged and Surf Scoters, were found at the tip. James Bay is a major staging site for Black Scoters. While the females are on their nests, all the males congregate to molt. There were probably between 1000-1300 Black Scoters at the tip of Longridge.

White Birch logs, along with White Cedar, are a common sight on the beaches. Those two species don't grow in the area, meaning they would have had to floated a long way.

I tried to document the moment.

Just me and the bay...

Back around camp, I continued to explore the marsh. I caught a couple more meadowhawks.

Black Meadowhawk

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

I also went back to the creek to see what else I could catch. Just the same species as the day before.

Northern Pearl Dace

Brook Stickleback

August 19, 2018

It was sort of a cool and dreary day...very nice as it kept the mosquitoes away! We did the West Bay Survey on this day. There were tons of shorebirds on the mudflats. I believe we tallied somewhere around 2000 Semipalmated Sandpipers and 1500 White-rumped Sandpipers. Many of the Semis were juveniles, so it was obvious that there was some turnover as it was our highest juvenile count to date! We succeeded in finding a Red-necked Phalarope and a couple Wilson's Phalaropes on the survey as well. 

After a long trek across the mudflats, we finished our survey. Just before turning around to head back, we had this Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, certainly eye-catching!

Also right before turning back, we had a Tree Swallow go over with either a Cliff or Bank Swallow (sorry, it was over a month ago and I can't remember! I do think it was Cliff though). Interestingly, we had a Barn Swallow fly over later while back at camp. Swallows are uncommon up along the coast, and we only saw 4 individuals over the course of our stay.

Halfway back across the mudflats, I heard an odd shorebird call. By this point, I had been exposed to enough calls to pretty much recognize any of the shorebirds that we encountered, so I knew that whatever it was, it was going to be interesting. Soon after, I got on the bird, as was pleased to see it was a Red-necked Phalarope. Sure, not super rare, and we had already seen one today, but they are always fun! It landed not too far away, and put on a good show.

Also on the way back, I managed to hand catch this little fish, the Three-spined Stickleback. It has wonderful blue eyes. 

The rarest sighting of the day came soon after...

A couple hours later, back at camp, I spotted a white butterfly flying around. I assumed it was just another Cabbage White, which we had seen many of, but I decided to catch it just to be sure. I was pleased to see it was in fact a Mustard White, a (perhaps overdue) lifer for me!

Spent the rest of the day around camp...and if I remember correctly, I took another nap!


  1. I'm really enjoying the Longridge posts! I wasn't able to make it up this season and I really missed it.

    And it's cool with the shorebird vocalizations, by sheer repetition of the common stuff the uncommon ones really jump out at you eh? I found that too, with the phalaropes for sure, and actually last season most of my Baird's I heard before I saw as well

    1. It sure is a great place to learn. You come back way better than when you went in!