A birding trip to Presqu'ile Provincial Park at this time of year can produce mixed results. The general impression would be one of winter birding, with most of the birds being the same ones that will likely be here for another few months. A bit of persistence (and luck), however, would turn up some that do not normally stay past late November or even earlier. A few such prizes were found in the Park this week.
Over 200 Mute Swans, a Trumpeter Swan, and a handful of Tundra Swans can be found in Presqu'ile Bay on most days. There are also about 100 Redheads and a small group of Hooded Mergansers among the more common ducks there, as well as a Common Loon and a Pied-billed Grebe. Most of the above birds are best viewed from the government dock.
A Bald Eagle was at the calf pasture on two consecutive days. A Sharp-shinned Hawk appeared briefly near the lighthouse. A Ruffed Grouse was feeding on the edge of Bayshore Road. There is still a dwindling flock of American Coots off Lilac Lane. Paradoxically, the number of observed shorebirds, while limited to only two species, Purple Sandpiper and Dunlin, has actually been rising for the past couple of weeks, probably merely the result of chance encounters. The latest tally, from Gull Island on November 25, showed five of the former (the highest total this year) and ten of the latter. Apparently there are three Snowy Owls in the Park, the one that has been regularly seen on Sebastopol Island and two in Presqu'ile Bay that sometimes perch atop one of the lighthouses in the bay or else on the ice itself. Two birders encountered a Barred Owl roosting near Paxton Drive, some distance to the east of Jobes' Woods, where they are normally found.
A Northern Shrike has become a fixture in the calf pasture area. Two Horned Larks on Gull Island and a Winter Wren, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Common Yellowthroat on High Bluff Island, all on November 23, probably represent the tail end of the fall passerine migration. On the other hand, a Pine Warbler that has been visiting the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road for the past nine days shows no signs of departing and is raising hopes that it will grace the forthcoming Christmas Bird Count, which is barely two weeks away. Sparrows and other /Emberizids /that may be tempted to tough out the forthcoming winter, especially if encouraged by well-stocked feeders, include several species observed this week. On November 23, a Savannah Sparrow seen on Gull Island and three White-crowned Sparrows on High Bluff Island may yet decide to move on, but the Song Sparrow, the three White-throated Sparrows, the three Red-winged Blackbirds, and the eight Common Grackles that have been patronizing feeders at 85 Bayshore Road and neighbouring properties appear to have settled in. Winter finches have been rather scarce this week, six Pine Siskins on November 25 being the only ones noted, unless one includes the Snow Buntings on the offshore islands and at Chatterton Point. Prospects for the coming week are for more of the same, but it is worth keeping a lookout for Bohemian Waxwings, which show up from time to time at this time of year and which will find ample buckthorn berries on which to gorge themselves.
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.