Sunday, 24 August 2014

James Bay 2014

Part 3 - Camp Life

Since I've returned from James Bay I've had a lot of people ask me questions about how the people were on the trip & also what i did other then look at birds ? The best way for me to describe it would be to break down our daily routine.

7-8am Breakfast

9-11am Leave camp and head for the coast

11-5pm Survey shorebird numbers two hours before & after high tide. Also search for knot flags

6-6:30pm Each day someone (usually Mark) would cook supper and sometimes desert

9pm Leave camp again for night time banding! from 9-12 we would try and catch birds in the mist nest. Some nights we stayed much longer due to how many birds we caught. One night in particular we got to see the northern lights for a short time. Definitely a highlight of my time along the coast.

My bed

On days that it rained heavily we would stay in camp and do water filtering, a never ending job. Some of the team played cribbage which i too learnt how to play. While i was at camp i got to read two books and keep a detailed journal of my activities. Every person i got to meet while volunteering this summer was very friendly and knowledgeable about birds and birding in general. I got to learn so much and also spend my 18th birthday with a great group of people.

Fresh buns !

Mosquitoes... the never ending battle  

Mine & Marks cabin (also kitchen cabin)

Girls cabin

This one speaks for itself 

Hellen Fu

Janice Chard photographing shorebirds

Ready for action

Eventually ill post some more photos from my trip and possibly some footage taken with my Gopro camera  

Thursday, 21 August 2014

James Bay 2014

Part 2 - The Birds

Its quite difficult for me to even begin to describe how many birds i seen while i was living along the James Bay coast. It was amazing watching tens of thousands of shorebirds move through our surveying area (Little Piskwamish) Most days we seen the usual mix of 4000+ Semipalmated Sandpipers, thousands of White-rumped Sandpipers, a thousand or so Red Knots and hundreds of birds like Ruddy turnstones, Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers.

Red Knots

Here is list of shorebird species i seen:

Semipalmated Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Semipalmated plover
Short-billed Dowitcher
Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs
Hudsonian Godwit
Marbled Godwit
Red Knot
Pectoral Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper

These are just the shorebirds i got to see, this doess not include other birds like Sandhill Cranes, White Pelicans or Blue-headed Vireos that i also got great looks at.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Short Billed Dowitcher

Greater Yellowlegs

Wilson's Phalarope 
Do to how much surveying we were doing and the amount of walking we had to do plus gear we had to bring with us like spotting scopes, lunch, water, tripod and binoculars i decided most days to leave my camera back at camp. Meaning i did not take half as many photos as i can originally imagined i would. None the less i did get a few images i love and i also got to really observe and improve my shorebird identification skills!

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Me looking for flagged Knots
Another important task that we did each day was scanning for flagged Red Knots. This meant walking slowly and quietly up on a group of knots and looking closely at each birds legs for flags that have a 3 letter code. By reading these codes we can use the information to age the birds, determine sex ratios and see where birds were going each winter. My group alone was able to record over 1600 flags. With over 300 individuals, an amazing total by any standards if i do say so myself!

Shorebird Banding

Each night around 9pm a few of us would head back out to the mudflats and open the mist nets we had already set up. From 9-12 we would do net checks every 10-15 minutes and usually had birds !
Near the end of my month at Little Piskwamish the juvenile birds began to arrive and so we started doing some daytime banding as the juvi birds are less experienced as the adults and are far more likely to fly into the net in the daytime. It worked on the juvi Semipalmated Sandpipers !

Janice Chard from Bird Studies Canada observes the net set

We used our head lamps for light and large plastic containers for our little mobile banding lab. It worked really well and we were successful in catching, banding, flagging, bleeding, and outfitting birds with sat tags. These minuscule devices send out a signal that can be recorded by MOTIS towers which are strategically placed all along southern Ontario and the eastern seaboard. It was really fun knowing that i was really participating in Shorebird research!

A few photos showing you the banding process !

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper getting banded 

Semipalmated Sandpiper getting bill measurements 

Mark Peck measuring a Semi Sandpiper wing

Taking a blood sample

Dunlin outfitted with sat tag ! Can you believe
 the battery life on that little thing is literally months ! 

Bands & Flags 


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

James Bay 2014

Part 1

Ive just returned from the James Bay Lowlands in northern Ontario. From July 15- August 15 i stayed in remote Moose Cree first nations goose hunting camps. The expedition was organised by The Royal Ontario Museum, Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada  & Ministry of Natural Resources.  The main goal of the trip was to survey all the shorebirds we seen each day and also to try and record Red Knot leg flags using spotting scopes. Each day we usually left camp between 8-9 and would not return until supper (6:30). Once supper was finished we got ready and headed out to do night time banding from 9pm-12am. Along with surveying and other things we did some invert & water sampling. 

From Newfoundland i flew to Toronto and stayed with relatives for a few days before driving 750km to Cochrane with Christian Friis and other team members.  We stayed the night and then caught the Polar Bear express heading north to Moosonee (Approx 5 hours). After staying a night at the MNR waterfowl house we got the helicopter into the camps.


For the first two weeks the crew at Piskwamish were as follows:

Peter & James Kennerley (Brittan)
Janice Chard (Bird Studies Canada, LPBO)
Emily Rondel (Bird Studies Canada)
Mark Peck (Royal Ontario Museum)

Second Crew:

Jean Iron
Eleanor Zurbrigg
Mark Peck
Dough McRae
Lisa Pollock
Hellen Fu
James Kennerley
Darrell Isaac (Moose Cree)
Jeff Isaac  (Moose Cree)

Everyone on the trip was fantastic and so informative on all the things i got to take part in. The trip was long and at times cold & wet. Other days were dry & hot but everyday the birds were amazing. We got to see 10,000's of shorebirds while we were there. My team alone got over 1600 flag re-sightings! with over 300 individuals. This information will give us an idea of how long the birds are staying and where they are returning each year on migration. It was really neat to witness birds like the Red Knot fatten up and continue on their southward migration.

Hudsonian Godwits 

This is Part 1 of my 3 part series i will be doing about my amazing trip to the James Bay Coast.
Over the next few days ill discuss some of the things i did like banding Semipalmated Sandpipers or even cooking homemade buns.