Now that it is officially winter, one could expect to find fewer birds at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, but the Christmas Bird Count last Sunday proved that there are more birds to be found in the Park than one might suspect, as long as there is a sufficient number of birders present to find them.
To the dismay of those who recognize Mute Swans as a significant environmental problem, the number of individuals of that species continues to grow. This week, 320 were counted in Presqu'ile Bay. The odd Tundra Swan can usually be found among them by scanning the flock carefully with a spotting scope. Almost all the other waterfowl at Presqu'ile are diving ducks, including a dozen or more Redheads. A Hooded Merganser was near the government dock on December 19, and four Red-breasted Mergansers were in various locations the day before.
Raptors, both diurnal and nocturnal, provided some interesting sightings during the past week. At least two Bald Eagles and a Northern Harrier have been seen flying around. On Sunday, a remarkable four species of owls were found, all of which are likely still present. A Great Horned Owl was seen at dusk near the Park entrance, and a Snowy Owl was sitting on the ice off Owen Point. That bird, or another like it, was on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay on three of the last seven days. Two Barred Owls were located, one in Jobes' woods and the other across the road from 42 Bayshore Road. Another one was just outside the Park on Huff Road today. The best find, certainly the most surprising, was a Long-eared Owl in the cedars beside the Park Store parking lot. That bird was re-discovered on December 21.
On December 19, a Northern Flicker was sitting in the middle of the road near the marsh boardwalk entrance road. A young Northern Shrike appeared near two feeders on Bayshore Road on consecutive days last weekend. Three Winter Wrens were seen on December 18, perhaps the largest one-day count for any winter day at Presqu'ile. A very late American Pipit at Owen Point on December 18 may be the same bird that was there a fortnight earlier. Also on December 18, two Swamp Sparrows were behind the woodpile marsh, and, by a conservative estimate, six or seven Song Sparrows were on Gull Island. Although proving somewhat elusive, a White-throated Sparrow has been at 83 Bayshore Road, where there are also two Common Grackles. One Common Redpoll put in a brief appearance there on December 18.
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, plenty of heavy ice floes, and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. The ice between Owen Point and Gull Island is considered unsafe at present.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.