OVERVIEW: The last northbound shorebirds and songbirds were passing through this week. High Bluff and Gull Island were a hive of activity with thousands of pairs of colonial birds raising young. The surrounding water is a big gathering place for puddle ducks and the gravel shoals and Owen Pt. have been busy as a resting place for shorebirds, gulls and terns. Most songbirds are in the core of their nesting period and getting inconspicuous when not singing.
Note that access restrictions limiting the number of visitors are now in place at a number of Provincial Parks including Presqu’ile. You now need to reserve a day pass on line at Ontario Parks, even if you have a Seasonal Pass.
American Wigeon: Two males were at Gull Is. on 10 Jun.
American Black Duck: At least two birds are still hanging out in the Gull Is. duck flock.
Northern Shoveler: A pair was seen by Gull Is. on 9 Jun and two moulting males were there the next day.
Green-winged Teal: One was seen on 4 Jun.
Redhead: A pair was seen off Gull Is. on 9 Jun. This species has nested here multiple times but not annually it seems.
Greater Scaup: Two bright males and a female feeding close to shore on Gull Is. on 9 Jun (RDM) were late.
Hooded Merganser: Three flew past Owen Pt. on 9 Jun.
Common Merganser: There have been several females hanging around Presqu’ile Bay at Salt. Pt., Calf Pasture and around Owen Pt. On 9 Jun breeding was finally confirmed when a female with 14 young was photographed. Although long suspected, I think this is the first confirmed breeding of this species at Presqu’ile. Also, if you see any duck broods try not to approach too closely causing them to flush into the open Lake where they become more vulnerable to predators such as Herring Gulls.
Ruffed Grouse: A bird was still drumming – maybe for the last time this season - on 9 Jun.
Least Bittern: Two were reported on 10 Jun. The much lower water level in Lake Ontario has the marsh very dry and seemingly less populated by the signature marsh birds.
Northern Harrier: A female was seen at Calf Pasture on 6 Jun and is one of relatively few sightings in recent weeks.
Sharp-shinned Hawk: Singles were seen on 5 Jun and 6 Jun.
Black-bellied Plover: A late, bright male on the beach on 10 Jun was the only report.
Semipalmated Plover: Between one and two seen through the week with the last being one on 10 Jun.
Piping Plover: An apparently unmated female showed up, made a nest scrape then laid an egg on Beach 2 on the afternoon of 4 Jun! In a Herculean feat of efficiency the Ontario Parks Piping Plover Crew, aided by Park staff, erected a great exclusion fence in record time just before the weekend beach crowd arrived. Based on its unique leg bands it was determined to be the same one found on 1 Jun but not seen since, despite searching for it. This individual was identified as a female hatched last year at Sandy Is., NY. In spite of a great effort by people, this first time breeder was not as into it as we were and didn’t spend time at the nest or lay another egg and eventually abandoned. She was last seen on 6 Jun. This is the second modern nesting attempt at Presqu’ile, the first in 2016 produced 3 chicks. The only historical evidence of breeding came when Rev. C.J.Young lived in Brighton between 1914-1916 and collected two nests. Field work in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s by highly respected birders such as Jim Baillie, John Livingston, Gerry Bennett and Brighton’s own Orval Kelley revealed regular sightings in late May suggesting they were still nesting. Years later I asked John Livingston if he ever suspected if they were nesting and he said that based on the bird’s behavior and habitat that they simply assumed they were and never looked specifically for the nests. Dramatically increased recreational beach use in the 1950’s and modern beach management practices such as mechanical raking that started in the early 1960’s likely doomed any hope of successful nesting after that.
Greater Yellowlegs: A late bird was on the natural beach on 6 Jun.
Whimbrel: One on 5 Jun was the only report, and likely the last of spring.
Sanderling: Three on 4 Jun and two on 5 Jun were the last reports.
Dunlin: Singles on 4 Jun, 7 Jun and 9 Jun were the only reports.
Semipalmated Sandpiper: Seen through the week in small numbers with the last being two on 10 Jun.
Common Nighthawk: Two on 6 Jun are probably migrants since there has been no evidence of breeding locally for some time.
Olive-sided Flycatcher: Two seen by the Lighthouse on 5 Jun was a nice find and likely the last of spring.
Common Raven: What appeared to be a raucous family party was gathered in the trees on Owen Pt. then flew into the fog toward Gull Is. on 9 Jun.
Swainson’s Thrush: One on 4 Jun was likely the last of spring.
Veery: For some reason this is not a common or regular breeding bird in the Park. One was singing on 9 Jun near the Park Store.
Magnolia Warbler: A male was singing persistently west of the Park Store on 10 Jun.
Yellow-rumped Warbler: Two on 4 Jun and a single on 6 Jun might be breeding locally.
Black-throated Green Warbler: One singing at Salt Pt. on 5 Jun is clearly a late migrant/roaming male since there is no suitable nesting habitat at that site.
Clay-colored Sparrow: One was singing in Calf Pasture on 4 Jun.
Red Crossbill: Eight on 4 June near the Paxton/Atkins Lane junction just shows that these birds are still drifting around the park, and still with no sign of breeding.
Please Note: Access to Gull and High Bluff Island is closed to visitation between 10 March and 10 September to protect the thousands of colonial birds that nest on the islands.
Directions: Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located south of Brighton on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It is well signed from either Hwy. 401 or Cty. Rd. 2.