Expedition to the Arctic: Aerial Surveys – July 1, 2003
Aerial Survey for Red Knots in Foxe Basin
by Dave Golden
Today the people in Igloolik celebrated Canada Day, which is their country’s equivalent of July 4th. We took a brief walk through town to experience the festivities. There seemed to be a lot of activity in this little town of roughly 1,600 people, with a large group of people gathered by the harbor and participating in several different contests. We also had the opportunity to do a little bird watching as we walked down town. Some the bird species that we observed included Icelandic gulls and Thayers gulls. The most notable bird species that was spotted, however, was a red knot in flight. Daniel saw this bird flying towards the harbor on the edge of town. This was the first evidence of red knots that we had during our trip.
With the pilots well rested, we took off from Igloolik at 5:30 PM and headed across the Foxe Basin for Prince Charles Island. It was on Prince Charles Island that Dave picked up the signal from one of the red knots equipped with a radio transmitter. After checking the frequency, it was determined that this bird was previously captured in New Jersey at either Stone Harbor or Reed’s Beach. Paul also had success locating brant on Prince Charles Island, finding 2 birds with transmitter along the northern coast. We were also able to survey the north coast of Airforce Island during this trip, but did not locate any birds. By now we were running low on fuel and had to circle back to refuel in Igloolik. We were able to survey portions of Foley and Rowley Islands during our return flight.
There is a collection of small islands and peninsulas along the southern coast of Baffin Island that we thoroughly surveyed during our second flight of the day. Paul found 2 brant in this area, one on Bray Island and another on Jens Munk Island. A low altitude flight through Steensby’s Inlet revealed a previously unreported snow goose breeding colony. The latitude and lack of blue phase geese lead us to suspect this is a greater snow goose colony. It was a large colony that went on for miles. We counted thousands of geese and certainly did not cover the entire colony.
After another quick refueling in Igloolik, we took off for our third flight of the night. By now it was 4:45 AM and we had another 4-hour flight ahead of us. This flight took us to the Brodeur Peninsula, a large land mass in northwestern Baffin Island, that is several hundred miles north of the Arctic circle. Based on our models, there is a great deal of potential red knot habitat in this area, but it has never been surveyed for red knots by our program. Brant sightings are also reported for this area, but Paul had yet to have the opportunity to survey in this area. Admiralty Inlet is located along the eastern border of this peninsula and we conducted a low altitude survey along the coast of this inlet. Once again Daniel recorded thousands of snow geese observations. Despite our high hopes, not red knots or brant with transmitters were located during this flight. We landed back in Igloolik at 9:30 AM and quickly headed for our beds.