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Birding Report Feb 4/2016

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with current record-breaking weather conditions at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, as elsewhere in southern Ontario, that an influx of migratory birds, primarily waterfowl, has occurred this week.  Much of Presqu'ile Bay is now ice-free.  Comfortable birding conditions have also brought a minor influx of birders, who have found a good variety of birds.

A mere three kilometres from Presqu'ile, an unprecedented flock of ROSS'S GEESE for the past four days has put observers on the lookout for those birds to wander into the area generally considered to be the Presqu'ile birding area.  TRUMPETER SWANS have been seen on most days.  Six adults were present on Monday and an immature bearing wing tag number R81 was present for a few days and is likely still nearby.   Ten GADWALLS were in Popham Bay on Sunday.  Among the thousands of REDHEADS and GREATER SCAUP in Presqu'ile Bay are at least a dozen CANVASBACKS, a number that has been growing slowly all week and will likely continue to do so as the Waterfowl Viewing Weekend in March approaches.  No more than two RING-NECKED DUCKS and a few LESSER SCAUP have been detected in the huge flocks.  The four WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS reported last week at Salt Point were still there on Monday.

BALD EAGLES are a daily sighting, with at least five different individual birds among them.  Most commonly they are perched near the edge of the remaining ice on Presqu'ile Bay.  Other hawks seen this week were RED-TAILED HAWK, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (two), AMERICAN KESTREL, and MERLIN.  Two ICELAND GULLS were in Presqu'ile Bay on Tuesday.  Yesterday two SNOWY OWLS were on High Bluff Island and one on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay.  Today one was sitting on a duck blind in the marsh.  On two consecutive days, there were BARRED OWL sightings, one of them apparently attracted by imitations of their call.
A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER continues to frequent the area between 81 and 85 Bayshore Road and likely a bit further afield.  HORNED LARKS, probably early migrants, were reported on February 1 and 2.  EUROPEAN STARLINGS have been around a limited area of the Park all winter, but today a flock descended on a feeder where they have not been all winter.  In northern Ontario, that species is often considered to be the first migrant to return in the spring.  A small group of CEDAR WAXWINGS was at the calf pasture yesterday.  Two HOUSE SPARROWS again paid a visit to the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road.

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 may need to wade through water that is knee-deep when calm and is sometimes obscured by a layer of ice.  They may also encounter a slippery coating of ice on the rocks.  Ice cleats are recommended. 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.

Fred Helleiner