Heading Home

After weeks of fog and overcast, a window of clear skies opened up over the Island on July 3rd. I was supposed to leave camp on the 5th along with researchers from a seabird camp on the other side of the island. They opted to move the flight up a couple of days and head out early in case the weather closed in again.

 

Malkolm Boothroyd waiting for a break in the weather

Malkolm Boothroyd waiting for a break in the weather

 

My last few days on Coats Island were productive. No more polar bears in camp, and I put out the last tag on July 1st, for a total of 29 geolocators on Semipalmated Sandpipers this year.

 

Snow Buntings are rare in camp, but abundant a few miles away in the rocky uplands

Snow Buntings are rare in camp, but abundant a few miles away in the rocky uplands

 

Despite a slow start to the nesting season and prolonged bad weather, the nest total steadily climbed as the Semipalmated Sandpipers finally nested in good numbers and other species that had lost nests to foxes tried again. Although we did not find any more birds tagged with geolocators in 2013, we did spot six Semis that we had tagged last year with numbered flags on Coats Island last year, as well as a Semi banded in the Bay of Fundy, and another from the Delaware Bay.

 

A Willow Ptarmigan strutting his stuff near camp. We named this one “Pterry”.

A Willow Ptarmigan strutting his stuff near camp. We named this one “Pterry”.

 

 

Coats Island is a very important breeding site for Semipalmated Sandpipers, with one of the highest known nesting densities in the eastern Arctic. We need to understand where and when these birds are going during migration and wintering in order to help the population recover from the alarming declines observed in recent years.

 

PALO

A Pacific Loon guarding her nest

 

As it happened, the good weather held out long enough for the Twin Otter aircraft to make it to the Island, but the weather in Iqaluit (our destination) closed in with fog and rain during the day. We ended up spending the night in the small community of Coral Harbour on Southampton Island.

 

The Coats Island shorebird crew watches the Twin Otter touch on the gravel esker that serves as a runway next to camp

The Coats Island shorebird crew watches the Twin Otter touch on the gravel esker that serves as a runway next to camp

 

I was quite familiar with Coral as Brad Winn and I spent a few days there last year on the way in to the Coats Island camp. We stayed again at a tiny hotel called Leonie’s place and enjoyed the first hot shower in weeks! In the morning we headed out early and I made it to Iqaluit just in time to jump on a commercial flight to Ottawa, and then on to Boston and home!

 

 

The Coats Island shorebird camp is perched on the edge of a meltwater river.

The Coats Island shorebird camp is perched on the edge of a meltwater river.

 

Despite some significant challenges, the project was quite successful this year. This was due in large part to the commitment of our supporters at Manomet, the outstanding cooperation, support, and collaboration from Dr. Paul Smith at Environment Canada, and the on-the-ground teamwork with Scott Flemming of Trent University and his intrepid crew, Rianne, Malkolm, and Shawna. Scott and crew are still in camp and last I heard they were over 100 nests on the season and filled with a sense of foreboding over the impending mosquito hatch. They did get a resupply of coffee on my flight out though, so I think all will be well.

 

Scott Flemming collecting a sample from a caribou antler

Scott Flemming collecting a sample from a caribou antler

One thought on “Heading Home

  1. The story is dramatic enough, but the pictures bring us in so close we can almost breathe it! How can anybody read and see this blog without wanting to help?

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