Sunday, 9 September 2012

James Bay highlights

Well, I finally got around to getting all of my photos and videos processed so I can present you with the much anticipated James Bay report, Chickney edition!  I was lucky enough to be part of the crew doing some of the shorebird surveys on James Bay as part of an ongoing joint MNR/CWS/ROM project monitoring Red Knots and other shorebirds utilizing the massive mudflats of western James Bay during fall migration.

We took off from southern Ontario on July 28, spent the day driving to Cochrane, then stayed the night before boarding the train on July 29 to Moosonee.  We started the trip out great with a singing Wilson's Warbler on Barb Charlton's yard in Flamborough of all place.  Next up were Le Conte's Sparrows and Black-billed Cuckoos singing behind our hotel in Cochrane!

On July 30 some of the crew got up early to check the Moosonee Sewage Lagoons out - wasn't too much but here is the eBird checklist. Logistics didn't quite work out so I spent an extra night in Moosonee before being helicoptered to Chickney Point where I would be stationed.  Ken, Jeanette Goulet (CWS) and I arrived at Chickney at about 9:30 AM where we exchanged places with Ron Ridout (BSC), Stu Mackenzie (BSC) and Don Sutherland (MNR).  Our fourth and fearless leader was Christian Friis (CWS).  We spent the next two weeks getting out to the coast for the daily flyby at high tide.  Numbers of shorebirds were absolutely mental with our daily average somewhere around 60,000 and topping out at over 100,000 individuals!!

View of the camp from the air, looking north.  Note the sweeeet observation tower!

Common Redpolls were, well, common

Juvenile Northern Shrike visited us once at camp

An obliging Alder Flycatcher

Crazy storm rolling in

That's hail!

Ice for drinks!

Nelson's Sparrow

The crew out on the flats

Amongst the amazing numbers of shorebirds were lots of Hudsonian Godwits.  This is a flock of about 2500!

Part of the same flock of Hudsonian Godwits - let me know if you find the black-tailed...

Marbled Godwits had mostly left by the time we arrived

A typical view of the shorebirds at Chickney

An even more typical view...what's your count?

Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar

We had bats at dusk on a few occasions...consensus is that they were probably Hoary Bats
Snow Goose numbers built from a few hundred to about 10,000 when we left

A banded female (note the brood patch) Snow Goose

Peregrine Falcons and Merlins were regularly hunting the flats

Nicely coloured "Hudson Bay" Toad

Dawn flyovers were common - this one is a quiz bird for you!

View from the helicopter towards the coast - the trail through the Meadow of Doom

Big Snow Goose flocks at Chickney Channel
As you can see it was an action-packed trip with just so many birds it is hard to describe.  Our camp was located about 20km north of the Albany River.  Be sure to check out Ken's and Josh's blogs and Jean Iron's report for details on their similar trips.

I'll post an update once the daily checklists are up on eBird, but I think we had a bit over 100 species in the two weeks we were there...


  1. Could the quiz bird be a Empidonax flycatcher, like an Alder or something?
    Or am I totally off?

  2. Hi Wesley,

    Not an empid...but you're in the right order! Check out the pattern on the tail, undertail coverts, and underparts...