Presqu'ile Provincial Park has been experiencing wintry weather for most of the past week, but the birding community has not been deterred from staking out birds for the Christmas Bird Count that will be taking place in and around the Park and the greater Brighton area (excluding Toronto and Ottawa) this coming Sunday. The prospects are encouraging despite an ominous long-range weather forecast.
The most conspicuous birds at Presqu'ile these days are swans, three species of which were in Presqu'ile Bay on December 8. On most days over 200 Mute Swans have dotted the water, and on that day a wing-tagged Trumpeter Swan was also there, as well as 25 Tundra Swans. The latter species has been seen on six of the last seven days. A few American Wigeons have been with the flock of Mallards at Salt Point. For five of the past seven days there were Canvasbacks (as many as seven) and Ring-necked Ducks (at least two) with the Redheads and Greater Scaup in Presqu'ile Bay. A drake Harlequin Duck was at the lighthouse on December 11 and 13, and a Barrow's Goldeneye was there on December 8. A few Hooded Mergansers have been around Salt Point every day for the past week and one was also at Owen Point. White-winged Scoters (up to 60) have been off the lighthouse and smaller numbers in Popham Bay and Presqu'ile Bay. Single Horned Grebes were at the lighthouse on two days and off Gull Island. A Red-necked Grebe was in Presqu'ile Bay on December 7.
Bald Eagles have regularly been sitting on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay or flying around that area. Two adults and an immature bird were all in one observer's scope at the same time while he scanned the bay from his window. A moment earlier a Northern Harrier had flown past one of the eagles. Another Northern Harrier and a Sharp-shinned Hawk were also seen this week. A Ruffed Grouse was flushed on one of the ski trails and another has been eating barberries in a hedge at 115 Bayshore Road.
An American Coot was at Gull Island on December11 and two were at Salt Point on the following day, one of which was still present today. The most recent sighting of the late straggler on Gull Island, a Ruddy Turnstone, was on December 13, but the drawing card for most birders in that part of the Park continues to be the possibility of finding a Purple Sandpiper, one of which was there on December 9. Anyone searching for that bird should be aware that, contrary to an earlier report, Gull Island will remain off limits to non-hunters on Friday (tomorrow), Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday of the coming week. A decent variety of gulls has been seen this week. Bonaparte's Gulls were at Gull Island and the lighthouse on December 11, the first of that species this month. In Presqu'ile Bay, there was an Iceland Gull on December 8, a Lesser Black-backed Gull on December 10, and single Glaucous Gulls on four of the past seven days. On two previous Christmas Bird Counts at Presqu'ile, an Ivory Gull has been found. Although it is highly unlikely that another of those very rare Arctic gulls will be found on Sunday, it is certain that observers will be on the lookout.
Two observers hiking one of the ski trails found not one but two Barred Owls. Northern Shrikes have re-appeared at Presqu'ile with a vengeance. They were seen on three different days in various parts of the Park. On December 12, two individuals were found and two others not far from the Park on the mainland.
The Carolina Wren at 186 Bayshore Road seldom strays far from the woodpile behind the garage except to grab a peanut from the feeder. Another Carolina Wren, presumably a different bird, has shown up twice in the past week, once at 83 Bayshore Road and once at 115 Bayshore Road. There are active feeders at both of those locations. A Golden-crowned Kinglet was near the Park gate on December 9 and at least one American Pipit has been lingering between Owen Point and Gull Island as recently as December 11. A Savannah Sparrow on Gull Island on December 11 is the latest on record for Presqu'ile. There was also a Song Sparrow there. Another Song Sparrow and two White-throated Sparrows have been visiting the feeders at 83 Bayshore Road. A small flock of Common Grackles appears to have settled in for the winter. A single Brown-headed Cowbird was also present for two consecutive days. Having cleaned up the fruit on the lone flowering crab apple tree along Bayshore Road, Pine Grosbeaks are now taking to the ubiquitous buckthorn bushes, sometimes descending to the road for sand, where they appear exceptionally tame. Common Redpolls are present in small numbers and a few Pine Siskins have been seen at 83 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. It should be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Owen Point, Gull Peninsula, Sebastopol Island, High Bluff Island, 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.