Friday 19 October 2018

James Bay 2018: Part Seven

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 24, 2018

After all the excitement from the day prior, we were excited to head out and see what may have changed in the high winds. The day's survey was West Bay. It was to be our last survey of West Bay during our time at Longridge. 

The Wood Frogs look a bit different up on the coast than they do further south. One of the big differences is that the northern frogs have much more spotting on their sides.

We spotted this bear feeding near the start of the West Bay survey route.

Over the past few days, Snow Geese became a regular sight in West Bay, as they hung out with the large (usually 80-120 individuals) flock of Canada Geese. Most of the birds we saw where "blue morphs", but on this day we saw a decent number of the regular "white morphs" mixed in.

There was a little bit of Marsh Felwort growing around the grassy areas of the flats.

Grey Wolf tracks are a common sight on the mudflats.

I usual shorebirds were seen on survey. Highlights include both phalaropes and a couple of Short-billed Dowitchers. 

Least Sandpiper

The really big highlight was another (or the same?) Parasitic Jaeger seemingly hunting shorebirds over the mudflats. I managed a digiscoped photo (somehow). 

We got back late in the afternoon, and pretty much just hung around the rest of the day. I took a few photos of the camp.

The view from our porch

Main/kitchen cabin on the left

Our water filtration system. We would haul water from the creek, then hand filter it through coffee filters, before putting it in this device to filter it again. We couldn't afford to get sick!

Our bear defense, powered by a car battery. I never volunteered to test it, but I am told it was a "good shock".

August 25, 2018

We spent days hoping that James Bay would give us a "good bird". Today was that day.

We started our day at Paskwatchi, where we planned to spend a little bit of time before starting the survey. Off in the distance, a Parasitic Jaeger (another!) was found.

Looking at a jaeger!

It was my turn to be primary observer (basically the person that calls the species name, age, activity (flying, loafing, feeding, or a combo of any of those three) and the number of individuals.) Not too long after I started my survey, we heard the crackling over the radio from one of our crew mates who had stayed back at the point. 

"Sabine's Gull flying out over the north point over the Bonaparte's"

We were close to 500 meters away from the described location. We all turned our scopes to the area and scanned frantically. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I saw the very distinct wing patterning of a juvenile Sabine's Gull come into view! Awesome!

The guys ended up turning around and staying at Paskwatchi, but we had a survey to complete so myself and one other continued on our way. When we were about three kilometers the radio came to life again.

"We have a Black Tern as well"

We tried to finish up the survey as fast (and efficiently) as we could, before making the long dash back (about four kilometers) back to Paskwatchi, in hopes of getting better looks at the Sabine's, and to see the Black Tern. Unfortunately, the tern had left by the time we got there (the tern and Stilt Sandpiper, seen the next day, are my only two "painful" misses of the trip). The Sabine's, however, was still there, and giving great looks. I could only digiscope, as my DSLR was sitting on my bed several kilometers away, but at least I managed identifiable photos...

Sabine's Gull - the dark on in the middle

This photo, although you can't really "tell", has three species in it: Sabine's Gull, Little Gull, and Bonaparte's Gull. Not a trio you'd typically expect to be sitting all next to each other!

Speaking of Little Gulls, I saw my first juvenile pluamged Little Gull that day. Sticks out like a sore thumb!

I think that the Sabine's Gull wing we found a few days earlier brought us good luck!

It was very nice evening, and our last evening all out together as a crew. This young Whimbrel put on a good show on the walk back.

All of us went to bed happy that night.

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