Conditions at Presqu'ile Provincial Park are decidedly different from what one would expect at this time of year, with plenty of open water, even in the marsh. What all this portends for the forthcoming Christmas Bird Count (December 17) is uncertain. There are plenty of water birds around, though few have returned to the marsh since the recent ice cover disappeared. Other birds are widely scattered and not as easy to find as under normal conditions, when they would be concentrated at feeders.
Single Horned Grebes were in Presqu'ile Bay on December 11 and Popham Bay on December 14. Single Double-crested Cormorants have also been seen in both places, most recently on December 13 on the artificial island off Salt Point. On one of the cold days at the end of last week (December 8), a Great Blue Heron, apparently frozen out of its normal habitat and obviously confused, landed in a garden beside a house on Bayshore Road before flying off to the south.
The most recent sighting of Tundra Swans was on December 13, when seven birds were in Presqu'ile Bay. A resident escaped Black Swan that has been frequenting the Brighton area for some time flew over to the Presqu'ile waters and stirred up some local interest. Six Canvasbacks were in Presqu'ile Bay on December 14, accompanying the Redheads, which have numbered well over 100 this week. A Harlequin Duck was off Owen Point on December 10 and 11. White-winged Scoters are still numerous around the lighthouse, but a female Black Scoter off High Bluff Island on December 14 was the first in over a month.
Single Bald Eagles, one immature and one adult, were flying over Presqu'ile Bay on consecutive days. When the bay freezes over again, they will likely return. All three species of accipiter appeared in the Park this week, with at least one Northern Goshawk being the highlight.
There are still over a dozen American Coots in Presqu'ile Bay. The peak of the Purple Sandpiper migration appears to have passed: eight birds were on Gull Island on December 10, but only one remained on the 14th. A lone Dunlin was still frequenting Owen Point on December 14. There are still over a dozen Bonaparte's Gulls in Presqu'ile Bay, where they are relying on diving ducks to bring them food.
A Snowy Owl landed on a cottage on Bayshore Road on December 11. The Northern Shrike that has been at the calf pasture for over a month was still present on December 14. A flock of Snow Buntings was at Gull Island on December 14. There are both Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles moving around among the feeders on Bayshore Road.
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. Gull Island is once again an island, the connection to the mainland having been severed during a recent storm. Visitors to Gull Island should be prepared to wade through knee-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. Hip waders are essential, even when the water is calm, and are inadequate when the water is rough. The surrounding shoreline can be very slippery. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Sebastopol Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days, at least until December 20.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.