Sunday 7 October 2018

James Bay 2018: Part Five

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 20, 2018

By this point, the days were starting to all blend together, so some of the finer details may be lacking, but I'll try my best :-P 

I do remember that we did the Paskwatchi (or Pasquachi, or Puskwatche...I saw many spellings, so I don't know what is correct) survey that day. I realize I keep naming off all these locations, so here is a rough map of the survey site (I used an "i" instead of an "a" by accident in "Paskwatchi")

Before heading out on the survey I spotted a garter snake out behind the main cabin. This is the most northern extent of their range.

Based on the fact I didn't take any photos, I assume that the survey was pretty average. If I recall correctly the real highlight was a huge flock (~1000 individuals) of something waaaaay out over the bay. Based on their behaviour, we were thinking they were likely Red Knots, but we couldn't be sure...

Hudsonian Godwits are often found in decent numbers at Paskwatchi Point. 

After we finished up the survey, we went into the "Magic Forest", which is a very nice spruce forest that is just covered in mosses and lichens. Quite the sight! There were plenty of cool plants and lichens to be found.


Northern Red Currant

Grey Reindeer Lichen

Canadian Buffalo-Berry
In the back of the above photo you can see the remains of an old cabin, which nature has taken back.
Black Crowberry

Single Delight

Star-tipped Reindeer Lichen


Wolf Willow

Some parts of the site are littered in this fossil, which is some sort of ancient filter feeding organism.

Blue Mussel shells are quite pretty, and also pretty much completely cover the shoreline.

After having so much fun looking at the flora in the forest, I decided to spend the rest of my day photographing some of the stuff I came across, mostly around camp and in the marsh. Always nice to stop and look at the small things (including the mosquitoes, which attacked every time you bent down to look at something!)

Water Hemlock

Seaside Pea

Tufted Vetch

Northern Bog Aster

American Dune Grass

Sea Sandwort

Common Silverweed

Common Cotton-Grass


Marsh Cinquefoil

August 21, 2018

The day started off with a bang because the banders radioed us early on that they had caught a Nelson's Sparrow! At this point in the trip, we had only had fleeting glimpses of Nelson's Sparrows as they flushed (not the most satisfying lifer), so we were all excited to have an opportunity to view one up close. It was determined it was a female, and she had a nest nearby (they later banded one of the young, and we occasionally flushed them here and there in the following days). Although she looks miserable, don't worry, she was fine. It was just a cool morning.

This morning also brought the much anticipated reopening of the "Forbidden Trail", a "shortcut" if you will, between camp and "The Wrack". It was closed upon our arrival due to a heavy presence of bears, but it was deemed (mostly) safe, as the bears had (mostly) moved on as they had eaten all the berries. Hooded Ladies' Tresses were present along the trail.

Although I spotted the first Snow Geese two day prior, it wasn't until this day when they started to become a daily occurrence. We found a family group with the usual group of Canada Geese. In the following days, small flocks (usually a dozen to about 40 individuals) were regularly flying over.

West Bay, that day's survey, was covered in shorebirds, the majority White-rumped Sandpipers, but also a fair amount of Dunlin and Semipalmated Plovers as well. 

White flag = banded in Canada

We spotted our first juvenile Dunlin of the season. 

This Pectoral Sandpiper was pretty cooperative. 

We finished the survey not long after. While resting, Doug came up to us with something he had found in the wrack line...

A Sabine's Gull wing! It is unlikely that it survived in that condition from last fall, so that means it was either a spring bird or a fall migrant from the current year. They were out there!

I ventured off on my own for the walk back, with plans to walk a straight line from Bear Point to the forested island across the mudflats. The mud is much easier to walk on than the grass along the shore!

Nothing crazy was seen on my trip back, but I did see some more cool plants. Some of the photos are a bit cloudy because I dropped my phone in the water...but don't worry, I fixed it...

Arctic Strawberry

Rattlesnake Fern

Foxtail Barley

Common Arrowgrass

Sea Clubrush

Marsh Grass-of-Parnassus

Labrador Indian-Paintbrush

Northern Comandra

A couple photos showing the landscape...

The forested island

I arrived back at camp in the early evening.

That night, just as we went to bed we heard a sound on our porch. A little alarmed, we looked towards the door when all of a sudden...


Alas, it wasn't a bear, but it was one of our fellow surveyors telling us that they were hearing a distant wolf! It seemed like it may have been a young one (it sounded quite wimpy), and we guessed that it was probably in West Bay. Barely within hearing range, but it was there! This was my first time hearing a wolf, and prior to this I only briefly saw the tail end of one run across the road in Algonquin. Currently, Eastern, or Algonquin, Wolf is considered a subspecies of Grey Wolf (which was the species of the individual we were hearing), so it wasn't "officially" a lifer, but who knows, maybe one day I can say I have encountered two species of wolves in Ontario! Quite the awesome end to the day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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