The thaw made birding more pleasant but there didn’t seem to be much around outside of the usual suspects. That said, the biggest SANDHILL CRANE fight on record was fun and PURPLE SANDPIPERS at weeks’ end brightened things up.
Waterfowl were mostly limited to the common wintering species with nothing remotely unusual reported. A high count of 800 CANADA GEESE on 26 Nov was notable. A NORTHERN HARRIER was reported on 23 Nov. SANDHILL CRANES were the big story with a significant flight going over the area mid day on 28 Nov. Sightings occurred simultaneously from the Park, Brighton and nearby sites and likely involved several hundred birds. Reports in the Park that were believed to be of different groups included 90, 24, 31, and 30+. Around the same time flocks of 16 and 64 went over Brighton and 40 passed over Wicklow, 15 km west of Presqu’ile. It’s mind blowing to think that this was a bird you would jump in your car to rush off and see just 25 years ago.
Shorebirds were perplexing. Three birds, believed to be SANDERLINGS were seen through “heat” haze on 26 Nov and 12 birds were on the beach but were flushed by dogs before they could be identified. More importantly, our first two PURPLE SANDPIPERS were photographed at Owen Pt. on 28 Nov. The only reports of BONAPARTE’S GULLS were 12 on 24 Nov and three on 26 Nov. Two SNOWY OWLS were on Gull and High Bluff Is. most of the week and a BARRED OWL was seen on 24 Nov. Single MERLINS were seen on 23 Nov and 26 Nov.
Two WINTER WRENS were seen on 26 Nov, the first in a few weeks. Pockets of AMERICAN ROBINS could be found, especially near the Calf Pasture. Small numbers of CEDAR WAXWINGS were reported with a maximum of 28 on 24 Nov. SNOW BUNTINGS were seen on Gull Is. with a high count of 90 on 28 Nov. No warblers were reported. A late FIELD SPARROW showed up at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders, just outside the gate, on 23 Nov. Single SWAMP SPARROWS, absent for several weeks, were seen near the gate and at the Brighton Constructed Wetland on 26 Nov. Apart from DARK-EYED JUNCOS and AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS the only other sparrows noted were SONG and WHITE-THROATED in small numbers.
Small numbers of blackbirds hang on with both RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD and COMMON GRACKEL being seen through the week. A single BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD was at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders on 26 Nov.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Presqu’ile allows waterfowl hunting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and the public is not permitted in hunting areas on those days. The areas affected are the marsh, Calf Pasture Point, Gull and High Bluff Is., High Bluff Campground and Owen Pt. The hunt will continue until 21 December.
Directions: Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, just south of the town of Brighton. It can be reached from either Hwy. 401, or Cty. Rd. 2 and is well signed. A Park map can be found in the information tabloid available at the Park gate. Presqu’ile’s two offshore islands – Gull and High Bluff – support a large multi-species colonial bird nesting area and access is not permitted during the breeding season (10 March-10 September).