Mid-October birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park means that searching the woods for birds is usually much less productive than scanning the waters and the shores. With a few exceptions, that has been the case in the past week.
Even though duck hunting is in full swing in the Park, there are places where many can be seen without the risk of flushing them. The marsh opposite the bird sightings board is a good place to observe dabbling ducks, including a few Wood Ducks, American Wigeons, American Black Ducks, and Northern Pintails, while the majority are Mallards and Green-winged Teal. A pair of Ring-necked Ducks was there on October 11. Most diving ducks are far out in Popham Bay, where the majority are Greater Scaup. Other species noted there include the first-of-the-season Long-tailed Duck, Buffleheads, and a Ruddy Duck. Buffleheads and Surf Scoters have also been in Presqu'ile Bay. Double-crested Cormorants made a point of contradicting last week's report of small numbers by gathering by the hundreds off the lighthouse for a feeding frenzy the day after that report was distributed. A Great Egret was still in the marsh on October 11.
Single Northern Goshawks were seen on three different days in the past week, as well as both Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk. A Merlin was present on October 12. Two Ruffed Grouse were seen on one day. The flock of American Coots off 38 Bayshore Road has grown to 22 birds. Nine species of shorebirds were recorded in the past week, mostly along the beach and on Gull Island, except for a Greater Yellowlegs at Salt Point and three American Woodcocks on the access road to beach 3 at dusk on October 10. Among others, there were Semipalmated Sandpipers, White-rumped Sandpipers, and a Pectoral Sandpiper. This is the time of year when one might expect a Red Phalarope to appear, a species that is rare enough not to be found at Presqu'ile every year.
Three species of owls were found in the Park in the past week. A Great Horned Owl was hooting on the evening of October 11 at the lighthouse, a location where they are seldom seen. On the following morning a Short-eared Owl was flushed on Gull Island. All day on October 16, a Northern Saw-whet Owl sat quietly in a cedar near Paxton Drive, continuing to eat a vole while having attention drawn to it by a group of Black-capped Chickadees.
There was a report of two Red-headed Woodpeckers on October 13. A few Blue-headed Vireos are still being seen. Two Common Ravens on October 11 and three Horned Larks on October 12 are the only sightings this fall of those species. A Marsh Wren was also seen on the latter date. A Gray Catbird visiting a bird bath at 83 Bayshore Road as recently as October 16 is rather late. Warblers have mostly departed, though seven species were found in the past week, including a few Orange-crowned Warblers, a Nashville Warbler and an American Redstart on October 11, Northern Parulas on October 10 and 15, a Pine Warbler on October 13, and Palm Warblers on October 15 and 16.
A good variety of sparrows and their kin has been present all week, including several Eastern Towhees, a Chipping Sparrow, a few Field Sparrows, and a Savannah Sparrow. An Eastern Meadowlark was found on October 11. A few Purple Finches and numerous Pine Siskins round out the sightings of this 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 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, 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.