Although the peak of the spring bird migration at Presqu'ile Provincial Park normally occurs in the middle of May or a bit later, the past week has met or exceeded expectations, both in terms of numbers and in terms of variety. At least one rarity has added spice to the menu.
The BRANT migration got under way on May 4, with a flock of close to twenty birds. Three were still present on the next day. Two flocks numbering about 30 and 200 passed through on May 7, and another 50 or so birds arrived today. When conditions are right, hundreds more can be expected any day now. A surprising five NORTHERN SHOVELERS were at Gull Island on May 7. Up to May 6, RED-THROATED LOONS were still being seen in Popham Bay. At least thirty GREAT EGRET nests are on High Bluff Island, some of which can be seen from the mainland with a scope.
A VIRGINIA RAIL was heard behind the woodpile marsh. In other years, YELLOW RAILS have been heard in the marsh at this time of year, so local birders might be checking that area at dusk. A few shorebirds have begun to trickle in, mostly LEAST SANDPIPERS, but there have also been sightings this week of SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, SANDERLING, SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, and DUNLIN. A LITTLE GULL was with a flock of BONAPARTE'S GULLS on May 6. The BARRED OWL that has been frequenting Newcastle woods was seen in broad daylight yesterday.
The second CHIMNEY SWIFT of the year flew over this morning. In addition to the resident RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS, one that was evidently a migrant was seen near the Park entrance. The continued appearance of two YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS suggests that they might be breeding in the Park. The arrival of EASTERN WOOD-PEWEES on May 9 brings to five the number of flycatcher species at Presqu'ile this spring. The only two vireo species so far have been BLUE-HEADED, WARBLING, and RED-EYED VIREOS. The BLUE JAY migration that can be observed on most late May mornings at the lighthouse got going this week, especially on May 9, when one flock contained 25 birds. The highlight of the week was a TUFTED TITMOUSE found on May 5. As in most years, several BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS were seen this week. The only regular thrush still to arrive is GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH. Two AMERICAN PIPITS flew over Owen Point on May 4.
As in other parts of southern Ontario, warblers are a big attraction, and twenty-five species plus one hybrid have been seen at Presqu'ile in the past week. Here are some of the highlights: both BLUE-WINGED and GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLERS were seen, as well as a BREWSTER'S hybrid; an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER on two successive days; more CAPE MAY WARBLERS than usual, one observer having seen eight of them; many PALM WARBLERS, including one of the "Yellow" subspecies; an early BLACKPOLL WARBLER; several early MOURNING WARBLERS - two were reported on May 5 and singles were seen on May 8; two early CANADA WARBLERS on May 8, another record early date. SCARLET TANAGERS, always an attraction, are present on most days.
A singing CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was at Owen Point on May 4. A VESPER SPARROW at the calf pasture and a SAVANNAH SPARROW near the lighthouse were in places where they are not often seen. The report of a LARK SPARROW needs documentation with a rare bird report form, since there have been only three previous records at Presqu'ile. LINCOLN'S SPARROWS have been present for the past three days. A DARK-EYED JUNCO was still present on May 8. BOBOLINKS and RUSTY BLACKBIRDS have been moving through the Park in the past three days. ORCHARD ORIOLES have settled in on several territories. PINE SISKINS that were still plentiful less than a week ago were down to one for the past few days and not one was reported today. A HOUSE SPARROW appeared at a local feeder.
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. Access to the offshore islands is restricted at this time of year to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there. 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.