Tuesday 20 August 2013

James Bay shorebirding - Part I

From July 30 - August 14 I joined Mike Burrell, Ross Wood, & Barb Charlton for daily shorebird surveys.
Our location was hither:

Although we did not find any crazy rarities (like a PRFA...) we did see several thousands of shorebirds, which I would prefer any day!

From the chopper you can see the 3 huts we lived in and the bay near the top of the photo. The camera is pointed towards the West:

Here's a selection of the shorebirds we saw:

Our group counted over 300 Hudsonian Godwits every day, some days reached 600. After spending a summer with these beautiful birds it was great to see the various stages of molt of migrating birds. The bird on the right is much more progressed towards its winter plumage than the one on the left.

We managed to find at least 3 colour banded Hudsonian Godwits. This one has an engraved white flag with "MK". It was banded somewhere in Canada, I'm not sure where though.

HUGO flock:

Marbled Godwits weren't plentiful in our area. Most days we saw less than 10, and most were flybys.

Short-billed Dowitchers were only seen at the Southern most point in our daily hikes where there was a creek mouth. The creek attracted higher concentrations and diversity of shorebirds, likely due to the increased nutrition in the area. A group of 3 SBDOs regularly visited the creek mouth.
Check out the bent beak on the bird on the right. Their beaks are very flexible, allowing them to probe into the mud and move their beaks around to find worms.

At first I thought these 2 birds represented two different sub-species. But now I believe that they're both Hendersonii SBDOs, but the one on the left has more dull winter feathers than the other.

Wilson's Phalaropes were uncommon. I only saw 2 or 3 (can't remember... and our eBird checklists haven't been submitted yet :p  ) - including this fairly fresh juvenile. It still had down on its head and neck!
(Least Sandpiper in front)

Red-necked Phalaropes were similarly uncommon. The only place we saw them was at the creek mouth. At first we were seeing adults that were molting into basic (winter) plumage. But by the last day there was a group of 5 spankin' juveniles.

Sex bomb:

I only saw Red Knots on 2 days (our group saw them on 4 or 5 days). These juveniles allowed a close approach:

Pectoral Sandpipers were common in our study area. We almost exclusively observed adults; however, by the last few days we had found at least a few juveniles.


Unlike small peeps, I find PESA juveniles rather difficult to pick out and confirm. They do look 'crisper' (have a more scaly look), but the adults seem to look fairly fresh as well. The scapulars and coverts are more rounded on the juvenile, there is a more noticeable white 'V' on the back/mantle, and the streaking on the breast is more buffy.

Peeps to come soon!

Nice bum, where you from?
 -mosquitoes invading