BUFFLEHEAD DEPARTURES BREAK-UP ON THE MACKENZIE May 12, 2016

report by KJ Finley

There are still five yearling Bufflehead remaining, along with eleven Surf Scoters and two Common Goldeneye. The last Red-necked Grebe left last night. The latter three species are a suite of divers that co-habit lakes in the far northern boreal forest.
At Chick Lake ( 65 52 41 N, 128 01 32 W) where I conducted bird surveys in late May, 1973, Scoters, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, Scaup and Red-necked Grebes were all common species, along with arctic species such as the Oldsquaw (Aha-alilk) and the Arctic Loon. There was only a single pair of Buffleheads, the most northerly breeding record then known, just beneath the Arctic Circle.
EOSDIS images show the the Big Bend of the Mackenzie where it cuts through the Gibson range, at the Ramparts, as it broke up on May 6th. In the latest image from yesterday, Wednesday the 11th, it runs muddy and the snow has cleared from the forest. Chick Lake is still covered with ice.
This spring the breeding pairs departed much earlier than usual, many on the 16th and 17th (see chart). A second exodus took place at month end, which is typical. But then a last group, comprised of some thirty yearlings, hung on and departed only last Friday night. Although Buffleheads are usually among the very last species to depart, averaging May 13th, the lingering presence of the Boreal Divers is unusual and indicates that they are not anxious to go north.
Meanwhile the southern boreal forest is unusually dry, with the Fort McMurray fire (May 4th) on everyone’s mind.
CheeDene Paysayquen
(Thanks to Rob Gray for monitoring numbers while I’ve been away on their interior breeding grounds.)
Mackenzie
Mackenzie Ramparts Breakup 6 May 2016

Mackenzie 2

Chick Lake 11 May 2016

Bufflehead departures

Chick Lake Buffleheads

Chick Lake Bufflehead

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