Thursday 25 October 2018

James Bay 2018: Part Eight, the Finale

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 26, 2018

Our last full day on the James Bay coast.

We woke up to a very rainy last day. I decided to clean up the cabin a bit and start to pack up while I waited for the rain to hopefully stop. Thankfully, after a few hours, it did. I grabbed my camera and my scope and began my solo mission to Paskwatchi Point, which was probably my favourite spot in the whole study area. I planned to do a seawatch, after all, the previous day had been so successful!

There were a couple small mammals noted on the walk, including Meadow Vole and this Meadow Jumping Mouse. 

A couple kilometers later, I made it to the point. I set up my scope, and proceeded to check out the huge flock of Bonaparte's Gulls.

The Sabine's was nowhere to be seen, but I found a couple Little Gulls. One was an adult, with the (almost) full hood and black underwings.

And the other was this juvenile. Not the best photos due to a number of factors, but still really cool!

There was a fairly large number of Common Terns as well.

After a bit, I gave up on my seawatch, and turned my attention to the shorebirds. I spent a couple of hours watching the birds feeding mere feet away from me in the wrack. It was super cool to see how they interacted with one another. One such instance that really stood out was the interaction between an adult and a juvenile Semipalmated Plover. My photos don't truly convey the drama that was going on, but I think you sort of get the picture!

Semi Plovers are one of the cutest shorebirds if I do say.

Also feeding in the wrack were a number of Sanderlings.

Ruddy Turnstones also worked the seaweed. Both adults and juveniles were present. 

Hudsonian Godwits were also feeding relatively close.

After awhile, I decided to get up and go wander around the flats beside the point to see what was around. White-rumped Sandpipers were numerous. This one in particular was cooperative.

White-rumped Sandpipers are named for, you guess it, their white rump! This field mark is easily visible in flight.

While looking at the above White-rumped, this Black-bellied Plover flew by. They can be identified easily in flight by their black "armpits".

In flight, Hudsonian Godwits show black under their wings. I made it my mission to try and capture some in flight photos, especially ones showing this field mark. After a few failed attempts, I got some photos that I am happy with!

There were five Baird's Sandpipers at Paskwatchi. It was an incredible Baird's day, with something like 38 found throughout the site! We had a Baird's, usually multiple, on almost every survey.

After a while, the Red Knots started to fly in. This was likely due to the tide.

Not huge numbers, but there were some individuals that allowed for close study.

I had a couple Whimbrel fly past during my time at Paskwatchi. They are often heard before they are seen!

Waterfowl-wise, a small group of Snow Geese flew over, as well as some Canada Geese and Northern Pintails. Pintails are one of the most common dabbling ducks up there at that time of year.

Snow Geese

Northern Pintail

Another Hudwit picture. My camera seemed to like them a lot (with good reason!)

Here are some miscellaneous shorebird pictures that I liked.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Ruddy Turnstone

Lesser Yellowlegs


White-rumped Sandpiper

Ruddy Turnstone

Before I knew it, it was almost dinner time, and I had to start heading back to camp. The final day on the coast was coming to a close.

For the first time in two weeks, I paused to watch the sunset. It would the last one I'd see from where I was for awhile.

August 27, 2018

We woke up just before 7:00, about two hours before the helicopter was scheduled to pick us up.

We finished packing and cleaning up our cabin, then put our stuff out my where the helicopter would land. Time passes super weird up there. It felt like we had all the time in the world to enjoy everything that there was to offer, but now, with less than an hour left at camp, we all realized just how fast it went. It seemed like just yesterday we had been at the airport in Moosonee loading our gear into the helicopter, and eagerly awaiting arriving on the coast.

My "last" bird of the trip was a LeConte's Sparrow. Very fitting, considering it was how I started this great adventure.

It wasn't too long before off in the distance we heard the helicopter. It soon cleared the tree line, and it made it's way to land in the marsh.

I was on the first flight out (we made two flights, the guys got to go on the second one. Of course, as soon as I left they had a Bohemian Waxwing, which would have been a lifer for me!). After saying good-bye to everyone who was going to be sticking around for the final session, the pilot revved up the helicopter, and we were off.

The pilot was nice enough to swing around camp and few times.

Longridge Point and West Bay

Longridge base camp

We took the scenic route back along the coast. The study site seemed so large, however from the air you can really see it is just a very small component in the whole landscape.

Soon, we reached the mighty Moose River.

And not too long after that, civilization.

We managed to get on the train that evening.

At 10pm, we pulled into Cochrane. Southern Ontario. Our northern adventure had come to an end.

Volunteering for the James Bay Shorebird Project was one of the coolest things I have ever done. I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to see a part of Ontario that very few will ever have the chance to see. It has definitely made me a better birder, and a better overall naturalist.

I will be back.