The complexion of the bird life at Presqu'ile Provincial Park changed significantly with the passage of a recent cold front. Most of the earlier migrants that linger into early October are gone, and those more typical of late October are arriving.
The water in Popham Bay was exceptionally calm on October 14, allowing one observer to spot 12 Common Loons and about 50 Horned Grebes far off shore. Double-crested Cormorants are now present only in single-digit numbers, and herons have virtually disappeared. Canada Geese are on the beach in the hundreds, including three smaller individuals that could easily have been mistaken for Cackling Geese had the observer not been careful with his identification. Most of the dabbling ducks can be found in the marsh opposite the bird sightings board, whereas diving ducks of many species, now present in the hundreds, have gathered in the offshore waters on all sides of the point. The calm conditions of October 14 allowed two birders to estimate 500 White-winged Scoters in the lake, birds that normally are too far out to be easily seen. A few Black Scoters were with them on October 20. Three Hooded Mergansers appeared in the marsh on that date.
A Bald Eagle sat in a tree on Salt Point on October 14. Other raptors have been rather scarce, as is often the case at Presqu'ile, but a Peregrine Falcon and two Merlins were seen at Gull Island within the past three days. A Ruffed Grouse was flushed from very close to the lighthouse. Only a handful of shorebirds remain, but an American Golden-Plover
was on Gull Island on October 18 and two White-rumped Sandpipers on October 20 were also noteworthy. Two Little Gulls were in Popham Bay on October 20. No one has yet reported a jaeger in the Park this year, but the recent increase in the gull concentration may entice one of these birds to appear.
From the description given, the owl seen in Jobes' Woods on October 15 could only have been a Barred Owl, another of which was seen on High Bluff Island early last week. A new bird-watching technique practised by two birders on that same night proved successful. By watching television at 11:30 p.m. in their cottage at 191 Bayshore Road, they created the light conditions that caused a Northern Saw-whet Owl to crash into their window and fall to the ground, where it stayed long enough to be photographed before flying off. At this time of year, other owls such as Short-eared Owls also pass through the Park and should be watched for.
A Northern Shrike was at the marsh boardwalk on October 19. Three birds seen on October 20 were on the late side: a Blue-headed Vireo, a Gray Catbird, and an Orange-crowned Warbler. A Northern Parula on October 14 was also rather late. Among the sparrows seen during the past week were several American Tree Sparrows, a Vesper Sparrow on Gull Island on October 16 and 18, and a Fox Sparrow. A Lapland Longspur and 13 Snow Buntings, the first of the season, were on Gull Island on October 20.
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, 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.