The birding scene at Presqu'ile Provincial Park has changed noticeably in the past week, with fewer warblers and shorebirds but more ducks and sparrows. A few rarities have added spice to the menu.
Most of the ducks are either in the marsh, where hunting is not allowed, or far out in Popham Bay, out of the reach of gunshot. Most of the dabbling ducks are MALLARDS and GREEN-WINGED TEAL, but there were also two NORTHERN SHOVELERS on September 28. Among the nine species of diving ducks, the majority, several hundred, are SCAUP. In the marsh a LESSER SCAUP was among the dabbling ducks. There have also been both WHITE-WINGED and BLACK SCOTERS, LONG-TAILED DUCKS, COMMON GOLDENEYES, and COMMON and RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS. For the second consecutive week, a RUFFED GROUSE was found exhibiting odd behaviour, in this case a fatal one, as it flew into the side of a house. Estimates of the HORNED GREBE numbers in Popham Bay have varied widely, with 150 and 300 being the high numbers. An adult BALD EAGLE was seen on September 30, and a PEREGRINE FALCON on September 26.
A COMMON GALLINULE was seen on October 1. There were sightings of AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS and GREATER YELLOWLEGS (including one in the marsh). The WHIMBREL that had been on Gull Island for almost a fortnight has not been reported since the opening of the duck hunting season. However, the HUDSONIAN GODWIT with which it often associated was still present on September 30 and may still be lingering. Anyone looking for it on Gull Island on the next permitted day (Sunday) should scan the vegetation in the dried up pond in the middle of the island, where it has been feeding. BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS were still being seen as recently as September 28. PECTORAL SANDPIPERS reached a high count of 22 birds on September 27. One of the highlights of the week was a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER first discovered on September 26 and still present at least four days later. A WILSON'S SNIPE was seen on October 1. On three of the past seven days COMMON TERNS were seen, most recently yesterday.
A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO on September 28 was especially late for that species. An owl was calling before dawn near the lighthouse that was likely a GREAT HORNED OWL, based on the description/imitation given by those who heard it. A BARRED OWL was seen in Newcastle woods being harassed by BLUE JAYS. With NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWLS being banded north of Presqu'ile yesterday, there are likely a few of them already somewhere in the Park. An EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE was at the lighthouse on September 29. PHILADELPHIA VIREOS were found on two different days. On this 6th anniversary of the only VARIED THRUSH sighting at Presqu'ile, one is reminded that October can produce some rarities, not the least of which was the PROTHONOTARY WARBLER that delighted several birders at Owen Point on September 26, the first ever fall record for that species at Presqu'ile. Among other warblers this week were several ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER today (within a few days of being the latest date on record), and a WILSON'S WARBLER on September 26, also rather late. Sparrows of several species are ubiquitous in the Park this week. Two PURPLE FINCHES were at a feeder on Monday. Sporadic flocks of PINE SISKINS have been showing up in various places for the past week.
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. Visitors to Gull Island not using a boat should be prepared to wade through water that is knee-deep, not taking into account any wave action, in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven and slippery. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days af. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA