The hoped-for break in the winter weather at Presqu'ile Provincial Park has not yet taken place, but a few clear signs of spring are evident in the bird world.
Given decent viewing conditions, birders looking out over Presqu'ile Bay from Bayshore Road or the calf pasture are almost certain to find both Mute Swans (the vast majority) and Tundra Swans, as well as a few Gadwalls and lots of Canvasbacks, Redheads, and Greater Scaup. A Ring-necked Duck was spotted as recently as February 24, and there probably are still a few of them among the scaup. Two White-winged Scoters were near Salt Point on March 2. A few Red-breasted Mergansers have paired up in the open waters of Lake Ontario near Owen Point and Chatterton Point.
Although Presqu'ile is not noted for its raptor migrations, a few noteworthy sightings occurred this week. An immature Bald Eagle was seen twice over Presqu'ile Bay, and a very early (perhaps record early) Merlin was at 111 Bayshore Road on March 2. On the same day, a Barred Owl was sitting directly over the main road in the Park just east of the bird sightings board parking lot. Unquestionably the biggest surprise of the week was the smallest raptor, a Northern Saw-whet Owl hopping around in a deciduous shrub at the calf pasture on February 28, another early date.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Ring-billed Gulls are fully in possession of Gull Island these days. A Glaucous Gull was on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay on February 24.
A Northern Flicker was spotted outside the Park Superintendent's office this afternoon. A few American Robins and Cedar Waxwings can usually be seen in or near a crab apple tree opposite the government dock (73? Bayshore Road). Perhaps they will be joined by Eastern Bluebirds in the next few weeks. A Song Sparrow was on the beach east of Owen Point on March 2, and a White-throated Sparrow was in the thicket at the base of Salt Point on February 26. Both of those birds were likely present all winter, as were the two Common Grackles around 116 Bayshore Road. Again this week, the only finches found at Presqu'ile were small numbers of House Finches, Pine Siskins, and American Goldfinches, mostly at feeders between the government dock and Salt Point.
To reach Presqu'ile Provincial Park, follow the signs from Brighton. Locations within the Park are shown on a map at the back of a tabloid that is available at the Park gate. The channel separating Gull Island from Owen Point is probably less than a metre deep but treacherous to wade across because of the swift currents. If it is ice-covered, the ice is probably unsafe. There is only one more week before Gull Island becomes off limits for the summer months (another sign of spring).
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.