Expedition to the Arctic: Aerial Surveys – July 4, 2003
Our final day (evening) of flying provided us with the opportunity to survey the last few spots in the Foxe Basin that we had hoped to cover during this year’s trip. Feeling well rested, we anxiously boarded the plane and began our final flight. We first flew north to cover some potential red knot habitat located on the eastern side of the Great Plains of the Koukdjuak. No red knots were found in this area, but as we turned south and flew along the western side of this part of Baffin Island Dave did pick up the signal of another red knot. Paul also picked up 3 more brant in this area. As our flight continued south, we circled around the Foxe Pennisula and landed in Cape Dorset to refuel.
We departed Cape Dorset and headed for Coats Island and Mansel Island, which are located in the north part of Hudson Bay. Paul found brant on these islands last year and this year was no different. Two brant with transmitters were found on Coats Island; one was on the northern tip of the island and the other was on the southern tip. Dave also found a red knot on the northern part of Coats Island. What was interesting about this finding was that it was only 11 miles from where a transmittered brant was located. Dave located a second red knot on Mansel Island. After surveying the Islands for 4 hours, we headed for the Ungava Peninsula of Quebec and landed in Ivujivik for fuel.
The northwest portion of Quebec had never been surveyed for brant or red knot by NJDFW. Our pilots informed us we could survey for about an hour before we needed to head back to Iqaluit. We flew south along the Hudson Bay coast of the Ungava Peninsula at 3000 feet scanning for brant and red knots for one half hour, covering about 150 miles. Dave picked up signals for transmitters at two different frequencies, but the signals had a peculiar pulse rate and he was not confident that the signals were coming from red knots. When we turned north we decided to conduct a low-altitude survey along the shoreline on our northern return. Unfortunately, this happened to be late in the evening and we were now several hundred miles south of the Arctic circle. For the first time in several days, the sun actually dipped below the horizon and in the twilight species identifications were difficult during this leg of the flight. At 2:30 AM we landed in Iqaluit.
Our 2003 survey of the Foxe Basin was now complete and we were pleased with the amount of work we accomplished. Over the past four and a half days we logged 43 hours of flying and covered 6,978 miles during our survey. A total of 13 red knot and 14 brant were located during this trip and many of these birds were found in areas that had never been surveyed by our Division prior to this trip. Several greater snow goose breeding colonies were also discovered during our flights. Incidental sightings of narwhal and beluga whales and walrus will be reported to the Canadian Wildlife Service for their use.