After a couple of days when the wind blew ice into Presqu'ile Bay, temporarily clearing most of the waterfowl out, mild weather returned, even enticing a chipmunk out of its winter quarters. Perhaps the first avian sign of spring in Presqu'ile Provincial Park was a woodpecker (probably a Hairy Woodpecker) doing a drumroll on January 2, something we don't usually hear except in spring. Although it is a quiet time of year for birding, one unaccompanied observer, by spending about three hours a day outside, has managed to locate 40 species of birds at Presqu'ile in the first five days of this year, which is exceptional for such a small area (about 10 square kilometres). In the town of Brighton and across the bay at Barcovan, he found an additional six species, including urban specialties like Rock Pigeons, European Starlings, and House Sparrows, which one would be hard pressed to find at Presqu'ile in winter.
Four Tundra Swans were in Presqu'ile Bay on December 30 but have not been since. Three Canvasbacks were at the end of Langdon Avenue with Redheads and other ducks on January 5. The number of Redheads plummeted after the bay iced up, from several hundred to half a dozen, but almost 100 have returned. Common Mergansers experienced a similar disappearance/re-appearance, albeit in numbers barely reaching two digits. Red-breasted Mergansers, on the other hand, were unaffected by the freeze-up since they typically stay in the open water of the lake.
Bald Eagles have been seen on four of the past seven days, usually cruising over Presqu'ile Bay. Both Sharp-shinned Hawk and Northern Goshawk have also been seen this week. A Ruffed Grouse was flushed in the woods, and the fresh tracks of three other birds were spotted in widely separated parts of the Park. Among the hundreds of Herring Gulls on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay there were at least two Iceland Gulls. A Snowy Owl was spotted on the ice of the bay.
A Northern Shrike can often be found at the calf pasture. Both Brown Creeper and Golden-crowned Kinglet have been seen in flocks of Black-capped Chickadees along Paxton Drive. Two Song Sparrows were at Owen Point, a White-throated Sparrow was at 83 Bayshore Road, and an unidentified sparrow, perhaps a Swamp Sparrow, skulked away from the observer near the pump house. A flock of Snow Buntings was on Gull Island. A lone Common Grackle that had not been seen for a week has re-appeared twice near Langdon Avenue. Four species of finch have been present during the past week, the commonest being Common Redpolls at several locations. House Finch, Pine Siskin, and American Goldfinch are the other three.
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. The ice between Owen Point and Gull Island may be unsafe depending on recent wind and temperature conditions, but was not a problem a few days ago.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.