With the fall bird migration now in full swing at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, there are more interesting bird sightings being reported than space can accommodate, including some rarities. Without wishing to jinx the event by putting pressure on the leaders, I am predicting that those who are planning to visit the Park on Sunday for the annual Presqu'ile outing of the Ontario Field Ornithologists are in for a real treat. There is even the remote possibility that a tropical oceanic waif may be found, as tropical storm Hanna will have reached this latitude by then, though it is not predicted to veer inland towards the Great Lakes..
All of the common dabbling ducks have been seen around the shores of Popham Bay in the past week, including a Northern Shoveler seen on August 31 and again on September 4. The big influx of diving ducks is not expected until next month, but a Common Goldeneye on August 31 and up to seven Red-breasted Mergansers were a bit unusual. In the heron family, this week has again produced an American Bittern (flying over Owen Point), the usual Great Egrets, a Green Heron on two different days, and at least one Black-crowned Night-Heron
Two Turkey Vultures sailed past on September 4. Among the true raptors, Ospreys are still present though in somewhat diminished numbers. Others have included the usual Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, and Merlins, all of which have been keeping the shorebirds on the alert. A Broad-winged Hawk on August 30 was an uncommon sight at Presqu'ile. The only nocturnal raptor noted this week was a pair of Barred Owls in Jobes' Woods, which on two separate occasions were persuaded to call, most recently at about 8:30 p.m. on September 3.
There has been a fairly rapid improvement in shorebird habitat at Owen Point, with the accumulation of algae mats. There and at Gull Island, which will be open for visitors again next Thursday, seventeen species of shorebirds have appeared in the last week, and a few expected species have not yet appeared, including American Golden-Plover
and Buff-breasted Sandpiper. A Whimbrel was seen by a number of people on August 31, a Red Knot was there on September 4, several Sanderlings, White-rumped Sandpipers, Baird's Sandpipers, and Pectoral Sandpipers have been present, but the highlight of the week was a Western Sandpiper on September 2. Totally unprecedented at Presqu'ile and perhaps anywhere in Ontario was a report of a flock of at least ten Western Sandpipers on September 4. For the past three days, a lone Stilt Sandpiper has been at Owen Point. Other shorebirds of some interest were Black-bellied Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, and Ruddy Turnstone.
A few flycatchers are still being found, including Olive-sided Flycatchers on August 31 and September 1 and a rather late Eastern Kingbird on August 4. The thrush migration is barely getting started but should soon be in full swing. American Pipits have been seen for several days at Owen Point. Warblers have been plentiful this week. Among others there have been sightings of Blue-winged Warbler (September 3), Golden-winged Warbler, early Palm Warblers, and the highlight, - a Prairie Warbler that was located at Owen Point on September 2 and, remarkably, re-located on the following day.
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. Birders who have not visited Presqu'ile in the past few years may not be aware that the boardwalk that provides access into the marsh has been closed and is unlikely to be re-opened for another year or so. Access to the offshore islands is restricted until after September 10 to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there. It is not clear yet how deep the channel is between Owen Point and Gull Island, though earlier in the summer it was said to be chest-deep.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.