There is nothing like a report of a rare bird to cause birders to descend on Presqu'ile Provincial Park, and that is what happened last weekend. Along with some rarities, large numbers of migrating birds have made for an exciting week of birding. The bad news is that some of these birds will not be seen here again until next spring.
Common Loons have been present at the rate of about one per day, but not always the same birds. A Red-necked Grebe was in Popham Bay on August 21, and on the same day there was a Green Heron in the woodpile marsh. Wood Ducks, as many as 15 at a time, can be seen from the main road opposite the bird sightings board by looking across the marsh at a railing on the side of the marsh boardwalk. Most of the other ducks, including Redheads and scaup
, are on (or just off) the north shore of Gull Island.
Raptors have been seen more frequently in the past week than during the earlier part of the summer. There were Ospreys on two different days, a Northern Harrier over Gull Island, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Cooper's Hawk at Owen Point, and several sightings of Merlins from various locations, including two birds at the calf pasture on August 18.
Most of the excitement at Presqu'ile has centred around shorebirds, of which twenty species have been seen between beach 3 and Owen Point in the past week. A Solitary Sandpiper on August 18 was unusual for that location. A Willet and three Whimbrels on the following day were also unexpected. The highlight of the week was a Western Sandpiper that remained for three days, August 18-20. A White-rumped Sandpiper also stayed for three days, beginning on August 20. A Stilt Sandpiper was seen on only two days, and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was present from August 18-21. That species is considered rare in Ontario, but can usually be counted on to show up at Presqu'ile in late August. Small numbers of Short-billed Dowitchers were also of interest. The next shorebird to be expected in the Park is the American Golden-Plover
, which usually arrives before the end of August.
There have been at least six cuckoos seen at Presqu'ile in the past week, one of which was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. For five consecutive evenings this week, Common Nighthawks were migrating over the Park. The high count was 21 birds on August 19 at the calf pasture. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have been regular visitors at 83 Bayshore Road. Seeing three Pileated Woodpeckers sitting like robins on the outer twigs of a mountain ash tree while feeding on berries was a surprise to two observers. Most of the flycatchers seen recently have remained unidentified as to species, but a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was identified on August 19. A Philadelphia Vireo was near Owen Point on August 19. There was a report of a Marsh Wren on August 20. A Swainson's Thrush was seen on August 19.
Twenty species of warblers have been frustrating birders all week as they flit around in good numbers among the leaves. Among them were a Blue-winged Warbler on August 22, Northern Parulas, Pine Warblers, a very early Palm Warbler (perhaps a record early date for Presqu'ile), Blackpoll Warblers, Mourning Warblers, and a probable Connecticut Warbler seen on two consecutive days by separate observers at Owen Point. An early White-throated Sparrow has been at 191 Bayshore Road since August 23.
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. Access to the offshore islands is restricted at this time of year to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.