Monday, September 27, 2010

James Bay visits, Arrival in Fort Albany

Today I travelled from Timmins Ontario to Fort Albany, via Moosonee. This is about a two hour trip by a King 100 aircraft which seats about 12 people. Fort Albany is a small Cree village on the banks of the Albany River, about 150 kilometres north of Moosonee, near the coast of James Bay. I'm here with Peter Rosenbluth of Ontario Nature and Annie Metat of Mushkegowuk Tribal Council to meet with people in the communities, and share knowledge on birds and land use planning. There are 17 Important Bird Areas that ring James Bay, many of which are globally important as gathering sites for species of shorebirds such as the threatened Red Knot, Hudsonian Godwit and Semipalmated Sandpiper, and waterfowl including Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Brant, and Black Scoter. Fort Albany and neighbouring Kashechewan made national news a few years back when the water went bad from flooding and many Kashechewan residents were relocated to Timmins. The cost of food and gas is extremely high, as is travelling out. Air travel is the only option for leaving the community. Cree is spoken widely here, perhaps more than English.

It is September 27 but surprisingly mild. Only one sign of winter so far. Just after getting off the plane in Timmins, a small flock of Snow Buntings flew over. Otherwise, White-crowned Sparrows were abundant at the Timmin's airport, where I also saw several small flocks of Sandhill Cranes. American Pipits and Horned Larks foraged in the grass near the Moosonee airport terminal, some landing just a few metres from us. Several Green-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers, and a Common Goldeneye floated on the backwaters of the river separating the island from the mainland, near the Fort Albany Airfield.

Tomorrow Bernie will take Peter and I by boat to the mouth of the river where we will briefly explore the Albany River Estuary and Associated Coastline IBA before returning to the town to join Annie in her daughter's Tepee for an informal community meet. Later in the day an official general community meeting will be held where I will have an opportunity to present the Important Bird Area program, and listen to the interests of local people.

In two days we travel downstream to Kashechewan for more meetings including one to the local high school.

More posts to come!!

Ted

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