Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

poor year for shorebird nesting in Arctic

Expand Messages
  • Steve Hampton
    This was forwarded to me: Very few southbound juvenile shorebirds from the arctic are currently migrating through southern Ontario indicating a failed nesting
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 18, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      This was forwarded to me:

      Very few southbound juvenile shorebirds from the arctic are currently
      migrating through southern Ontario indicating a failed nesting season
      for
      many northern species. For example, at Townsend Sewage Lagoons near
      Lake
      Erie on 8 August, Kevin McLaughlin saw 400-500 adult Semipalmated
      Sandpipers and only one juvenile. He saw only 5-6 juvenile Lesser
      Yellowlegs among 200-300 adults and had few juvenile Least Sandpipers.
      Juveniles of all these species should be common by now. This spring
      and
      summer have been exceptionally cold, wet and windy in much of northern
      Canada from James Bay to the High Arctic Islands. Here are reports from
      six
      biologists and birders, five of whom were in the north this summer.

      1. Ken Ross, waterfowl and shorebird biologist, Canadian Wildlife
      Service:
      "It looks to me that there has been a general failure of breeding
      shorebirds from the Hudson Bay Lowlands north. Certainly goose
      productivity
      was well down along the Hudson Bay coast where it was still winter in
      late
      May. And I have heard that the Arctic was even worse. Ken Abraham was
      telling me that shorebirds appeared to be migrating earlier than usual
      in
      the James Bay area, probably reflecting a large proportion of failed
      breeders."

      2. Ken Abraham, biologist and research scientist with the Ontario
      Ministry
      of Natural Resources (OMNR), studies waterfowl and shorebirds around
      James
      Bay and Hudson Bay: He reports, "Strong indications that the extremely
      late
      year spring (May/June) and cold/wet summer (June-July) was indeed a
      poor
      year for breeding shorebirds. My student Linh Nguyen had a fair number
      of
      Semipalmated Plover nests this year, but a ragged nesting season with
      very
      high egg predation, really asynchronous timing and changes in nest
      density
      among areas, compared to his two previous summers. While banding 12-23
      July
      we witnessed increasing numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers, a few Ruddy
      Turnstones, hundreds of both species of yellowlegs and a very early
      massing
      of Marbled Godwits (in my experience). We had Marbled Godwits in
      flocks
      alone and mixed with Hudsonian Godwits at several locations from the
      extreme south end of James Bay (Hannah Bay) up to Lake River and
      including
      Akimiski Island (largest island in James Bay). I suspect that Marbled
      Godwit, in particular, had a poor year, but possibly so did Hudsonian
      Godwit."

      Note: isolated James Bay population of Marbled Godwits is probably
      about
      3000 birds.

      3. Don Sutherland, zoologist with the Natural Heritage Information
      Centre
      of the OMNR, reported: "My guess is that there was widespread nest
      failure
      of shorebirds and many other arctic-subarctic bird species in eastern
      Canada. When we arrived at the Pen Islands (Ontario/Manitoba border of
      Hudson Bay) on June 23rd, things really hadn't started yet. There was
      still
      substantial ice on many of the larger lakes, large snowdrifts in the
      lee of
      ridges and spruce copses, hardly a hint of plant growth anywhere, and
      several inches of water on the wet tundra. Many of the local species
      including the common shorebird species (Stilt Sandpiper, Dunlin, Least
      Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe, Short-billed Dowitcher, Hudsonian Godwit,
      Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope, American Golden-Plover) were
      displaying,
      but weren't behaving as though they had initiated nests. After a few
      days
      we started flushing more birds from scrapes and partial clutches and by
      the
      time we departed on July 7th there were even some clutches starting to
      hatch (e.g., Least Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper). More telling though
      were
      the large flocks of shorebirds present throughout the period. These
      were
      either failed breeders or birds which had just opted not to try. Among
      these were substantial mixed flocks of Hudsonian Godwits and
      Short-billed
      Dowitchers (which breed more commonly in the taiga-tundra transition)
      and
      large mixed species aggregations including large numbers of Stilt
      Sandpipers (150 in one flock). Many of these flocks were concentrated
      in
      ponds along the coast, but were also present six or more kilometres
      inland.
      Also of interest was the near absence of both Semipalmated Plover and
      Semipalmated Sandpiper. These should have been present and not uncommon
      (as
      they have been in other years) on the gravel ridges bordering wet
      tundra
      near the coast, but we saw very few of either and found no nests.
      Other
      species which typically breed further inland (e.g., both yellowlegs
      and
      Bonaparte's Gulls) were also loafing in ponds near the coast.
      Waterfowl
      also had a poor time of it. Large numbers of scaup of both species
      just
      hanging around and no evidence of breeding even by Long-tailed Ducks
      which
      were just sitting in pairs on ponds. There was a total failure of the
      Snow
      Goose colony and near total failure of locally breeding Canada Geese.
      This
      phenomenon wasn't restricted to the Ontario coast as Churchill
      apparently
      was a bust as were other places in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Just
      one of
      those years!"

      4. Farther north, Jim Richards of Orono, Ontario, spent 27 June - 13
      July
      at Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in Nunavut Territory. He reported,
      "That overall numbers of birds present at the end of June was down by
      at
      least 60%. Of those there only a small percentage were actually
      nesting. In
      past years species such as Semipalmated Sandpipers were usually found
      at a
      rate of 4-6 nests per day with normal walking. This year I found one
      nest
      in 16 days! Needless to say, it was very cold, very wet and very
      windy."

      5. Glenn Coady of Toronto, Ontario, was atlassing in the Hudson Bay
      Lowlands and was in contact with other groups in the north: He
      summarized,
      "Discussing shorebird nesting success with all the Ontario Hudson Bay
      atlas
      groups, Mark Peck's experience on Southampton Island in Nunavut, Jim
      Richards' experience at Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, as well as one of my
      birding friends who was at Churchill this summer, it would appear very
      few
      shorebirds were able to successfully breed in the frigid conditions
      across
      the arctic this summer. Many didn't even attempt to nest, and a lot of
      those that did likely failed in the horrific windstorms. Jim Richards
      told
      me that areas he covered at Cambridge Bay that normally would have
      resulted
      in sightings of 70 Semipalmated Sandpipers and 30 Baird's Sandpipers
      per
      day, proved this summer to be lucky to find more than one or two birds.
      He
      found only one Semipalmated Sandpiper nest the entire trip, and it only
      had
      a clutch of two eggs. The fact that it also was a poor year for small
      mammals (and Canada Geese and Snow Geese failed en masse too) in much
      of
      the arctic meant what few shorebirds that were going to nest
      successfully
      probably encountered heavier than normal predation from foxes,
      jaegers,
      gulls and owls."

      6. Alvaro Jaramillo of California on 6 August reported: "Juvenile
      shorebirds are down here already, but not the main push. It seems like
      a
      lot of the north was suffering from very bad weather. Alaska was very
      cold
      and rainy this season, I hope I am wrong and you begin to see a ton of
      juvenile shorebirds, but my guess is that it will be a weak year for
      them."

      *I hope that birders will report the numbers and age ratios of
      southbound
      arctic shorebirds during August, September and October. This will give
      us
      better information on the nesting success of northern shorebirds in
      2004.

      Acknowledgements: The following biologists/birders were very helpful
      with
      information: Ken Abraham, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; Glenn
      Coady, Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas; Bill Crins, Ontario Ministry of
      Natural
      Resources; Michel Gosselin, Canadian Museum of Nature; Jean Iron,
      Toronto,
      Ontario; Andrew Jano, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; Alvaro
      Jaramillo, Half Moon Bay, California; Kevin McLaughlin, Hamilton,
      Ontario;
      Mark Peck, Royal Ontario Museum; Jim Richards, Orono, Ontario; Mike
      Runtz,
      Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas; Ken Ross, Canadian Wildlife Service; Don
      Sutherland, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; and Ron Tozer,
      Dwight,
      Ontario.

      Happy shorebirding,

      Ron Pittaway
      Ontario Field Ornithologists
      Minden and Toronto ON
      E-mail: jeaniron AT sympatico.ca

      Steve Hampton
      ________________
      Resource Economist
      Office of Spill Prevention and Response
      California Dept of Fish and Game
      PO Box 944209
      Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
      -----------------------------------
      (916) 323-4724 phone
      (916) 324-8829 fax
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.