Wednesday 15 November 2017

Netitishi Point Part 1/2

I just got back from my trip to northern Ontario, at Netitishi Point on James Bay.  The purpose of this trip was to hopefully find some really rare birds.  Getting to Netitishi Point is quite the journey.  We drove 8hrs north to Cochrane, 5hrs by train to Moosonee, and a short helicopter ride to Netitishi Point.  As expected, the cabin was not in good shape.  I will spare you the details, but it took 5hrs of cleaning by 4 people to get it in shape as bears had busted in and ravaged the inside.  Suffice to say I had to clean bear dung off the floor.

Although we birded from dawn to dusk every day, the weather was against us.  Upon arriving, the weather turned quite cold, dipping to a low of -27 Celsius (not including a vicious wind chill on some days.  James Bay iced over to the horizon on some days, although south winds helped to open things up towards the end of our trip.  Some days I saw as few as 11 species of birds...the entire day!  There were, of course, the expected boreal species such as Spruce Grouse, winter finches, Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpecker as well as a huge Northern Goshawk and 2 Gyrfalcon.  Other bird highlights included a flyby of a group of Sharp-tailed Grouse and a one-day high count of 11 Snowy Owls.  We also saw seals out on the ice on most days.  The real highlight had nothing to do with birds (see next blog post)

We were gone for 12 days in total, having decided to cut the trip short due to the low bird activity.  It was not unusual towards the end of the trip to go an hour without seeing a single bird out on the bay.  I am still glad that we went, we saw some very neat birds (even if they weren't exactly rare), and had some great photo opportunities.  Below are some of my favourite trip photos.

The Scenery

This was the view from the train between Cochrane and Moosonee on the way up, quite snowy!

This is the stream we got our water from each day.  We had to bash through it with a log on the colder days.

The Birds
Glaucous Gull flying over sea ice 
Northern Shrike

Terrible shot of the first Gyrfalcon

Snow Buntings

Male White-winged Crossbill

Boreal Chickadee

Hairy Woodpecker

Male Spruce Grouse

Male Spruce Grouse

Female Spruce Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Snowy Owl

American Three-toed Woodpecker

Gray Jay
On our last full day, the tide had gone out quite far from the shore in the early afternoon.  I found a path through the gauntlet of shifting, hollow sea ice to the mud flats and wandered out to try to get some photos of the birds that might be present.  I found this one very cooperative Snowy Owl that did not seem alarmed by my presence.  I was able to get quite close and left without flushing the bird.  I was quite happy with this series of photos.

On the way back I photographed another one perched atop a mountain of ice.

The cabin after it had been cleaned up (a lot)
 We also had a little fun unrelated to birds!

The helicopter we took was from Expedition Helicopter.
I have saved the most exciting moment of the trip for last.  Check the next post for the details.


  1. Out of this world photos/posts/stories NN!

    1. Thanks Brandon! Despite the slow birding it was an exciting trip at times and lots to see and do!