It has been a rather atypical mid-December week for birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Wide-open conditions have permitted several species to linger longer than they normally would.
Six GADWALLS were off High Bluff Island this morning. A male and female NORTHERN PINTAIL have re-appeared in the marsh after an apparent absence of four days but appear to be keeping their distance from each other (at least until spring). On Saturday a flock of about 60 REDHEADS appeared near the lighthouse, and the female RING-NECKED DUCK reported last week was present again. In addition to a few WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS that are being seen almost every day, a BLACK SCOTER was in Popham Bay on Sunday. Given that a SMEW was seen in eastern Ontario this week and the only Presqu'ile report was also in early December, the one that was on the St. Lawrence River this week might find its way here. A HORNED GREBE was in Popham Bay on Sunday. The biggest surprise of the week was a GREAT EGRET that was photographed as it flew over the beach on December 12, over six weeks later than the previous late date for the Park. NORTHERN HARRIER, RED-TAILED HAWK, and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK have all been seen on High Bluff Island this week. The three shorebirds discovered on Gull Island last week (SANDERLING, PURPLE SANDPIPER, DUNLIN) were still present and seen by many on Sunday, but by Tuesday the PURPLE SANDPIPER had disappeared and no shorebirds could be found there today. The BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE photographed last Thursday by a self-described non-birder (who later photographed the aforementioned GREAT EGRET) was seen on Friday flying over Popham Bay, another record late date, by two weeks. Unusual for this date, about three dozen BONAPARTE'S GULLS are still around Owen Point and elsewhere. On Sunday the long-staying SNOWY OWL was on Sebastopol Island while another was on the beach. The former was also there today. Another was at the calf pasture on Monday, being harassed by AMERICAN CROWS.
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS were seen at the calf pasture and at 83 Bayshore Road. A PILEATED WOODPECKER was feeding on berries near Salt Point. An AMERICAN KESTREL was on High Bluff Island on Sunday and two MERLINS were seen on Saturday. At least one COMMON RAVEN was near Owen Point today. SNOW BUNTINGS have been on Gull Island, as many as 11 on Tuesday.
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. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, 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