There were no real surprises for birders at Presqu'ile Provincial Park during the past week, if one disregards the misidentifications (subsequently rectified) and possible misidentifications that have become all too frequent. The need for caution cannot be over-emphasized. There are enough interesting birds around even before our imaginations play tricks on us.
Waterfowl have almost all moved on, except for 50-60 Mute Swans and a few dozen Canada Geese and diving ducks. With the fishing season about to open, the remaining ducks will likely be chased out of Presqu'ile Bay by the boat traffic. Among the species still present in and around the Park today are Wood Duck, Redhead, White-winged Scoter, and Common Goldeneye. There are still good numbers of Red-throated Loons and Common Loons in the offshore waters.
The first American Bittern of the year was noted in the marsh on April 21. Up to five Great Egrets are sometimes visible on their nests on High Bluff Island. Black-crowned Night-Herons
are probably also nesting there, but the only two seen this week were on Sebastopol Island, where they used to nest. The first Common Moorhen of the season was in the marsh today. A few early shorebirds can be expected within the next week. In the meantime it is encouraging that a Wilson's Snipe was heard winnowing twice this week at opposite ends of the beach. Common Terns (up to four) have been at Owen Point every day since April 21.
A Great Horned Owls was being mobbed by American Crows near the Park store, and two Barred Owls were calling to each other in Jobes' Woods. An excellent imitation of a Barred Owl not far from the lighthouse on April 18 did not fool the other birder who responded in kind, though the response may have fooled the original perpetrator.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers have become almost a daily occurrence in the eastern end of the Park. Two Blue-headed Vireos on April 23 and, on April 22, a reported Warbling Vireo for which no details were available were also in that area. The early morning Blue Jay migration over the lighthouse, which reaches its peak in late May, appears to have begun already. The Tufted Titmouse mentioned in last week's report has not been seen since April 18, but there are daily observations of Carolina Wren within a kilometre of the lighthouse. Both House Wren and Marsh Wren have returned to their usual haunts. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers
were present for at least three consecutive days, beginning on April 18, when a pair was located not far from where they nested last year. A Northern Mockingbird was singing at the calf pasture on April 18. Brown Thrashers, many of them very vocal, have taken over Presqu'ile: seeing half a dozen in a morning has been normal this week.
The long-awaited warbler migration is well under way, albeit confined to few species. The majority are Yellow-rumped Warblers, but Pine Warblers are in places where the habitat is suitable. Two Palm Warblers were near the lighthouse this morning. Without further information, one is inclined to question the identification of a reported Magnolia Warbler on April 18. There has been a good variety of sparrows seen in the Park, including Eastern Towhees, Field Sparrows, a Savannah Sparrow, a report of two Grasshopper Sparrows at the lighthouse, a Fox Sparrow, many Swamp Sparrows, but as yet no White-crowned Sparrows. A Rusty Blackbird was seen on April 20, and another on April 21 that was originally misidentified by two experienced observers (this scribe being one of them) as a Brewer's Blackbird, a similar-looking species. In retrospect we both feel chastened and hope that the sobering experience will deter others from letting enthusiasm override caution.
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. Access to the offshore islands is restricted at this time of year to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.