Even in the dead of winter, birders can often find something unusual at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, and this week has been no exception.
Relatively calm conditions during the recent cold spell permitted most of Presqu'ile Bay and all of Popham Bay to freeze over and temporarily displace most of the waterfowl, but a shift in the wind has opened up much of the former. Among the hundred or more MUTE SWANS, there were two adult TRUMPETER SWANS on January 9, and this morning they were accompanied by two juveniles. A fifth TRUMPETER SWAN, bearing wing tag #K29, was photographed in a different location yesterday. Dabbling ducks seldom appear in Presqu'ile Bay in winter, but this week an AMERICAN BLACK DUCK was there on January 9 and two MALLARDS were there this afternoon. Four REDHEADS were in Presqu'ile Bay on Friday but none appear to have remained since then. Nevertheless, past experience suggests that the sudden recent change to strong south-west winds and the consequent opening of water off the government dock may bring the first wave of what local observers consider to be spring arrivals of hundreds of REDHEADS. A few WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS have been spotted there in the past week, most recently one while this is being written. Three BALD EAGLES were on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay on January 9, and one has been seen in that area at least three times since then. Four NORTHERN HARRIER sightings in the past week have been of interest, singles on January 9 and 14 and two on January 11. In a classic case of being in the right place at the right moment, four birders engaged in the annual mid-winter waterfowl count were lucky enough to view an adult LITTLE GULL as it flew past them, the first record of that species at Presqu'ile during the meteorological winter.
Perhaps because of diminished birder activity in the traditional windy parts of the Park, SNOWY OWL sightings have been few this week, in fact only two, one flying over the cottages on Bayshore Road and the other on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay. On the other hand, one observer found three(!) BARRED OWLS in mid-day along Paxton Drive, including two near Jobes' woods that were interacting and "hooting it up". One of that species was also seen two days later. A PILEATED WOODPECKER yesterday was the only one of the week. A NORTHERN SHRIKE just outside the Park gate and a vocalizing COMMON RAVEN were also the only ones of the week. A HERMIT THRUSH, rare in winter, was on the Owen Point trail yesterday. The wintering flock of AMERICAN ROBINS, numbering about 15 birds, was near the Lilac Lane - Bayshore Road intersection this morning. Two SNOW BUNTINGS were on Gull Island on Sunday. With some relief, birders have confirmed that the PINE WARBLER discovered twelve days ago near the bird sightings board has survived both of the recent cold spells and seemed perfectly healthy this morning as it fed on and under the nearby bird feeder. Both WHITE-THROATED and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS were still present at 85 Bayshore Road yesterday. A RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD was at 40 Bayshore Road on January 13 and a COMMON GRACKLE at 83 Bayshore Road on January 9. COMMON REDPOLLS appear to be the most common passerine in the Park this week. A flock of about 100 was off Owen Point, and smaller numbers are an almost constant presence at some local feeders, devouring prodigious amounts of expensive seed. Whether one of those might be a HOARY REDPOLL continues to be a matter of debate among experts with plenty of experience with both species.
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 water that is knee-deep, not taking into account any wave action, in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven and slippery. 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