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 The following post from BIRDCHAT may be of interested to Mobirders:

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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----- Original Message -----
From: "Jean Iron" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 8:36 AM
Subject: [BIRDCHAT] Few Juvenile Shorebirds - Failed Arctic Breeders


> 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: [log in to unmask]
>
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