Late November and early December are typically slow periods for birding, but at Presqu'ile Provincial Park there is sufficient variety to entice birders who keep winter bird lists and arbitrarily begin them on December 1.
One of the more productive locations this week is the water off Salt Point, where there were a late Horned Grebe on December 1 and two Double-crested Cormorants as recently as November 28. Closer to the head of the bay, off 42 Bayshore Road, there were nine Tundra Swans on December 1, but at least seven of them were later seen flying out of the bay. The only remaining dabbling ducks are American Black Ducks, Mallards, and Green-winged Teal, of which there are several along the beach. Five Canvasbacks are part of a flock of ducks usually resting off the government dock, consisting mainly of Redheads and Greater Scaup. At this time of year, it would not be unusual to find a King Eider at Presqu'ile, but as yet there have been no reports. At least one White-winged Scoter and three Black Scoters were in Popham Bay on December 1. Up to six Hooded Mergansers have been off the government dock in recent days. A Ruddy Duck was near Salt Point on November 28.
Northern Harrier (at Gull Island), Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk (over Popham Bay), and Merlin (on Gull Island) were the only hawks seen in the Park this week. The flock of American Coots off 42 Bayshore Road has grown to 55 birds, but much of the time they are out of sight in the reeds. With numbers ranging from two to five, Purple Sandpipers continue to be found on every visit to the offshore islands (particularly Sebastopol Island, which is unfortunately far enough offshore to be out of range for spotting shorebirds from the mainland and difficult - often dangerous or impossible - to access even from Gull Island). A single Dunlin on November 27 was the only other shorebird in the Park this week.
The Snowy Owl on Gull Island was not seen after November 27. At 6 p.m. last night, a medium-sized owl, perhaps a Long-eared Owl, flew in front of a car on Bayshore Road at Lilac Lane.
A Northern Flicker, the first in several weeks, was spotted on December 1, east of the entrance road to the Park. There is usually one or more of that species that winters at Presqu'ile. Seven American Pipits were seen at Gull Island on the rather late date of November 27, in addition to several American Tree Sparrows and Song Sparrows. Just outside the Park a Fox Sparrow paid a very brief visit to a feeder on Ontario Street in Brighton on December 1. That feeder and one on Bayshore Road have had recent visits from a White-throated Sparrow. For six consecutive days up to November 28, a Common Grackle
was a regular feeder patron at 186 Bayshore Road. A male Pine Grosbeak sat briefly in a treetop at 94 Bayshore Road on November 26. A mixed flock of Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, and American Goldfinches moved around near the lighthouse on December 1.
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 should be prepared to wade through shin-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. 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.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.