Red Knots & Semipalmated Sandpipers

Pei lay sheesh kow (Southern James Bay)

Country: Canada

Region: Ontario, Nunavut

Nearest city/town: Moose Factory/Moosonee

Site: Pei lay sheesh kow (Southern James Bay)

Species/Sub-species: REKN-rufa, SESA

Total biogeographic population: 42,000 (rufa), 2,260,000 (SESA)

Count Method: Total estimate and maximum day count

Count: 5,694 (rufa)2, 88,130 (SESA)2

% biogeographic pop. at site: 13.56 (rufa), 3.90 (SESA)

Season (primarily): Fall

Site recognition: Ramsar IBA

Site recognition (other): The Hannah Bay and Moose River federal migratory bird sanctuaries are within the site. Tidewater Provincial Park is also within the site and Kesagami Provincial Park borders its southern edge.1

Site description: Using the Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Type, the site's habitat characteristics are wetland (salt marshes/brackish marshes; freshwater marsh, fen); and marine and coastal supratidal [mud or sand flats (saline) ] .1 The site follows the boundaries of the Pei lay sheesh kow IBA and is completely within the Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) homelands. “Since the 1970s, Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) staff have conducted ongoing bird population surveys within the IBA. CWS and OMNRF initiated a joint project monitoring southbound shorebirds in collaboration with the Royal Ontario Museum, Bird Studies Canada (BSC), Moose Cree First Nation, and Nature Canada, called the James Bay Shorebird Project. In 2015, this project was responsible for erecting several Motus towers within the IBA, and volunteers and staff began deploying Motus transmitters on a variety of shorebird species… During the past several years, the MCFN has become increasingly involved in stewardship of birds and habitat within the IBA.”1 Work currently underway at the site in 2016 includes the nomination of Southern James Bay as a Site of Importance under the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) and an ongoing shorebird program (surveys, banding, radio telemetry, invertebrate sampling and habitat assessment).

Known threats: Known threats for this site are listed according to the Open Standards Threats Classification system. While most of the area in this proposed WHSRN site is remote, there is a threat of nonrenewable resource extraction in the form of oil, gas, and mineral exploration both in the proposed WHSRN site and in some of the watersheds emptying into James Bay within the proposed WHSRN site. A diamond mine near Attiwapiskat is proposed for expansion, increasing the potential for contaminants. A large chromite deposit has brought strong interest for mining development west of Attiwapiskat, east of Webeque. Currently there is barge traffic in the Moose River and occasionally along the coast as well as winter road traffic to service the communities to the north of Moosonee and the diamond mine. These activities generate litter and garbage and there is a potential risk of chemical or fuel spills. Ice bridges from the winter road and hydroelectric projects on the Moose River alter surface hydrology, which could affect the sedimentation process on the bay. 2 Isostatic rebound of James Bay is exposing more shoreline (70-100cm/100 yr). Overabundant Snow Geese have altered or destroyed about 1/3 of the coastal salt marsh vegetation between Manitoba and James Bay.5 There has always been a significant traditional hunt within the IBA by the Moose Cree (for geese, and to a lesser extent, shorebirds). Changes to the size and/or duration of this hunt could have negative impacts on these bird populations. In addition, an all-season road to the area has been proposed, and roads inevitably bring increased pressure from commercial and industrial development, as well as recreation and tourism.1 Climate change could have significant impacts on the area including sea-level rise affecting coastline habitats for birds. Other climate-related impacts could be loss of some habitat types and the invasion of problem species.2

Traditional territory of the Moose Cree First Nation WHSRN nominated
The Southern James Bay IBA "Pei lay sheesh kow" is an amalgamation of seven former IBAs that have been combined on the basis of shared populations of birds: Longridge Point & Associated Coastline, Big Piskwanish Point, North Point, Moose River Estuary, Netitishi Point, Hannah Bay, and East Point.1 Recent unpublished counts for rufa Red Knots have been as high as 10,59011. Specific counts for both Red Knots and Semipalmated Sandpipers include: 1) North Point to Longridge (SESA, Iverson and Friis): adult passage population estimate for 2014 is 10,770 (range: 7,680-15,080, 95% CI: 2,322-10,116); period: 26 July-25 August (2014 adult passage population), (0.48% of biogeographic population), fall5 2) North Point to Longridge (rufa): 2015 one-day total count of 5745 between North Point and Longridge; adult passage population estimate for 2014 is 4,885 (range: 2,320-10, 1200, 95% CI: 2,322-10,116); period: 26 July-25 August. Christian Friis (2014 adult passage population), (11.63% of biogeographic population), fall6 3) Albany River Estuary and Associated Coastline (SESA): 88,130 (maximum day count), (3.90% of biogeographic population), fall7 4) Ekwan to Lakitusaki Shores (SESA): 70,000 (total estimate), (3.10% of biogeographic population), fall8 5) Longridge Point and Associated Coastline (rufa): 5,000 (total estimate), (11.90% of biogeographic population), fall9 6) Big Piskwanish Point (rufa): 3,000 (total estimate), (7.14% of biogeographic population), fall10 7) Longridge Point and Associated Coastline (rufa): 10,590 (total estimate), (25.2% of biogeographic population), fall11

Sources: 1 2Southern James Bay WHSRN Nomination Form (unpubl.) 3Iverson and Friis unpubl. data 4 5Martini et al 1980. Coastal Studies in James Bay, Ontario. Geoscience Canada. 7(1):11-21. 6Iverson and Friis unpubl. data (10,770 ind. (range: 7,680-15,080))/2014 adult passage population/26 July-25 August 7Iverson and Friis unpubl. data (4,885 (range: 2,320-10,120)/2014 adult passage population/26 July-25 August 8eBird (James Bay Shorebird Survey 7/25/2012) 9BirdLife International. 2016. Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas factsheets: North America. Downloaded from <>, accessed 17 January 2016. 10Andres, B.A., P.A. Smith, R.I.G. Morrison, C.L. Gratto-Trevor, S.C. Brown and C.A. Friis. 2012. Population estimates of North American shorebirds. Wader Study Group Bulletin 119(3): 178–194. 11Ross and Morrison, August 2016 (Pers. comm Ted Cheskey, October 2017; James Bay shorebird project unpubl. data)