Although there is still no snow or other significant meteorological evidence of winter at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, the bird life is decidedly wintry. With the exception of dabbling ducks awaiting freeze-up, most of what was seen in the past week would not be out of place in January.
Presqu'ile is farther east than the main migration route for TUNDRA SWANS, but eight of them flew noisily over Gull Island on November 15, and two others were in Presqu'ile Bay on the next morning. The WOOD DUCKS that have been a fixture in the marsh opposite the camp office appear finally to have left, the last three being seen on November 14.
On the other hand, the GADWALL numbers have built up to a couple of dozen, including a flock of 22 off the shore of High Bluff Island, and the male EURASIAN WIGEON continues to please every visiting birder that comes looking for him. As long as there is open water off the camp office viewing platform, he is likely to stay, but if that freezes over he may re-locate to the GADWALL flock off High Bluff Island, as his predecessor did last year. On each of the last six days, single NORTHERN PINTAILS, usually a male, but on one occasion a female, have accompanied the MALLARDS either in the woodpile marsh or off the camp office viewing platform. The most interesting duck of the week was a female KING EIDER that swam close to the shore of Gull Island on November 15, recalling the days two or three decades ago when the species was a regular November visitor to the Park. The first sighting of a BARROW'S GOLDENEYE at the lighthouse last winter was on November 22, so observers would be wise to begin checking for the return of what has become an annual visitor. A female HOODED MERGANSER was at the calf pasture on November 13. Most of the COMMON LOONS that did not succumb to botulism have departed (as opposed to dearly departed), but one was still in Presqu'ile Bay on November 16. A HORNED GREBE was there two days earlier.
Both SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS have been seen on more than one occasion this week, the latter hunting over the offshore islands or perched in the trees on High Bluff Island. A flock of 100 AMERICAN COOTS has been in the marsh this week. Fifty shorebirds were in the Owen Point/Gull Island area on November 15: four BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, about 18 SANDERLINGS, a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, 26 DUNLINS, and a lone PURPLE SANDPIPER on Sebastopol Island but visible from Gull Island with a scope. The latter species, for which Presqu'ile is noted at this time of year, attracted two intrepid birders from almost 300 kilometres away who, unprepared with hip waders for the need to wade to Gull Island to see that target bird of theirs, nevertheless braved the cold water to achieve success in their quest (the wigeon and the eider being bonuses for them). On November 14, a late SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was in an unusual location, a tiny mud flat in the marsh. Although unfamiliar with the species or its status in Ontario, two people driving on Paxton Drive at night watched an owl on the side of the road which, after they returned home and consulted a bird book, they were convinced was a BARN OWL, quite different from the BARRED OWL which they had photographed in the Park recently.
A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER continues to visit the feeders at 83 Bayshore Road, and another was seen elsewhere in the Park. A NORTHERN SHRIKE was at the calf pasture on November 14. A COMMON RAVEN was near Owen Point on November 16. Both CAROLINA WREN and WINTER WREN and two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were at 83 Bayshore Road on November 13. A flock of SNOW BUNTINGS was on Gull Island on November 15. Apart from the resident HOUSE FINCHES, the only other finches at Presqu'ile in the past week were a flock of five WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and several sometimes intermixed flocks of PINE SISKINS and AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES.
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 not using a boat should be prepared to wade through shin-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven and slippery. 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. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.