Partly because more than the usual number of people have been birding full-time at Presqu'ile Provincial Park during the past week, over 130 species of birds have been found in the Park during that period. Among them there have been several unusual ones.
At least five, and possibly a sixth, member of the heron family have appeared at Presqu'ile since last week. Four of them (two American Bitterns, Great Blue Heron, three Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron
) were in the marsh, and the fifth (a Green Heron) was found along the causeway leading into the Park. The sixth bird was an egret with pale green legs, which two observers saw in the cove at the calf pasture on September 17. Unfortunately, the bird did not remain to have its identity confirmed, but the possibility exists that it might have been a Little Blue Heron, which has apparently been seen at Presqu'ile only once before and never at this time of year.
Turkey Vultures pass through Presqu'ile when migration conditions are favourable, and this happened several times this week. Throughout much of September 21, among the growing number of Canada Geese resting on the beach, there was a lone Snow Goose that stuck out like a sore thumb even from a distance of over a kilometre. It had apparently moved on by the next morning. A good variety of dabbling ducks and a few diving ducks await unknowingly the commencement of the annual waterfowl hunt on September 24. One of them, a Common Goldeneye that was seen several times in Popham Bay, was likely the bird that met some other fate and was found dead on September 19.
Although Presqu'ile is not noted for its raptor migration, seven species appeared during the past week, including an Osprey, a Cooper's Hawk, Several Merlins, and a Peregrine Falcon that was giving a Whimbrel a difficult few moments. There were several sightings of Ruffed Grouse, the first in quite some time. The discovery of a Wild Turkey carcass on High Bluff Island was a reminder that a live bird had been in that isolated location in spring.
Shorebirds are down in numbers from what they were earlier in the month. Nevertheless, fourteen species were present in the past week, including American Golden-Plovers
(up to 6 on September 20), Whimbrels (seen in two's and three's almost daily until September 19), as many as 10 Ruddy Turnstones, a Red Knot on September 19, White-rumped Sandpiper, and Baird's Sandpipers. At this time of year, there is a possibility that a Hudsonian Godwit and/or a Long-billed Dowitcher might appear. On September 19, a birder visiting Presqu'ile from Britain and three friends from Ontario discovered an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at Owen Point. His comment at the time was that he hadn't seen one in four days, whereas birders on this side of the ocean are lucky to see one in four months or even years.
Uncommon at Presqu'ile at the best of times, Rock Pigeons on two consecutive days were unexpected. A Great Crested Flycatcher on September 18 was somewhat late. Five species of vireos were in the Park over the weekend, including a Yellow-throated Vireo on September 17. Also on that date, two Common Ravens were performing barrel rolls in mid-air, and a possible third bird was also seen. Tree Swallows were seen on September 16 and 19. Although they were difficult to count, there were probably at least ten Marsh Wrens on Gull Island on September 19. Some have been there on each subsequent day, often in full song. Both Golden-crowned
and Ruby-crowned Kinglets have been seen in the Park this week, as have Gray-cheeked, Swainson's, Hermit
, and Wood Thrushes and Brown Thrashers. Most of the 18 species of warblers found in the Park this week are to be expected, but Yellow Warblers on September 18 and 19 were rather late for that species. A few Scarlet Tanagers are still around.
The sparrow migration is in full swing. On Gull Island, the discovery of a Grasshopper Sparrow on September 22 came as a real surprise. Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows, also quite uncommon at Presqu'ile, were there on September 19 and 22 (and probably on the intervening days as well, though most of the time they have been typically elusive). Lincoln's Sparrows were seen on September 18 and 19, and White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows are now ubiquitous. Feeders on Bayshore Road hosted a Purple Finch on September 19 and a House Finch still feeding a young bird.
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 should be prepared to wade through shin-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. It should also be noted that, after September 23, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.