In late December and early January of any normal year, a birder at Presqu'ile Provincial Park would be hard-pressed to find more than ten species of waterfowl or other birds with an affinity for water. This year, as everyone knows, has not been a normal year, and there is open water where normally there is only ice. Within the past week, at least twenty such species of birds have been found in the Park. Other birds, however, are scattered away from their usual concentrations such as feeding stations, and are more difficult to find than usual.
Three species of swans were in Presqu'ile Bay on December 31, a lone Trumpeter Swan, about eight Tundra Swans (a remnant of 21 that were there on the previous day), and the ubiquitous Mute Swans. On that same day, four Gadwalls were off Gull Island. Small numbers of Canvasbacks have accompanied the Redheads and Greater Scaup off Salt Point on three of the last four days. I am not aware of any sightings of the Harlequin Duck since December 27. White-winged Scoters are seen daily in various offshore areas, but most commonly off the lighthouse. Two Hooded Mergansers were off Salt Point on December 30. A Horned Grebe at the calf pasture on January 1 was unusual for that date. A flock of American Coots numbering between 10 and 20 birds has been lingering in the reeds off 38 Bayshore Road and was still present on January 4, apparently tying the latest date on record for this species. Given that there is open water in the marsh and virtually everywhere else, it would not be surprising to see other over-wintering waterfowl such as American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, or Green-winged Teal. Almost all of the birds mentioned in this paragraph can be seen from Bayshore Road, which will remain accessible to residents and their guests during the coming week.
A Purple Sandpiper that has been lingering at the east end of Gull Island was still present on January 1. Bonaparte's Gulls have also been lingering much later than usual, both at the beach (9 on December 31) and over the inner part of Presqu'ile Bay, where they have been opportunistically feeding around flocks of diving ducks, most recently on January 2.
A Belted Kingfisher has been patrolling the area eastward from the calf pasture, where it was most recently seen on January 1. The Northern Shrike in that area has been concentrating its search pattern at the west end of the calf pasture and in the area opposite 38 Bayshore Road. A few American Robins are wintering in the Park, moving around to various feeding areas. Up to four Common Grackles are also wintering over, most commonly seen around 83-85 Bayshore Road.
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. Gull Island is once again an island, the connection to the mainland having been severed during a recent storm. Visitors to Gull Island should be prepared to wade through knee-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. Hip waders are essential, even when the water is calm, and are inadequate when the water is rough. The surrounding shoreline can be very slippery.
It has come to my attention that Presqu'ile Provincial Park will be closed for much of the coming week (probably from 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 7 until 12:00 noon on Friday, January 12). Birders wishing to scan Presqu'ile Bay from 186 Bayshore Road may be allowed in as my guests, depending on the co-operation of the persons staffing the Park gate.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.