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 


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