Even though this has been a relatively lacklustre week of birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, there have been at least two surprises just to keep things interesting. The sudden drop in temperatures has had noticeable effects on the distribution, and perhaps also the numbers, of birds within the Park. In particular, the freezing of the marsh and adjacent waters has forced many birds to move elsewhere.
Mute Swan numbers reached a high of 185 on November 19 and will likely double before the winter is over, as birds from elsewhere gather in Presqu'ile Bay. There were from two to fifteen Tundra Swans in that area on five of six consecutive days (November 14 -19). High counts of Gadwalls, Northern Pintails, and Green-winged Teal before the freeze-up were twelve, six, and 70 respectively, all of them in the marsh. Subsequently, the corresponding numbers that have been found were two, zero, and five, none in the marsh. A male Hooded Merganser was at the edge of the marsh before the freeze-up, and a female was at the calf pasture afterwards. Two Red-throated Loons were far out in Popham Bay on November 19, and at least one Common Loon was still in Presqu'ile Bay on the following day. The highlight of the week was the discovery of an Eared Grebe, the second of the season, about 500 metres out in Popham Bay on November 15. Three Great Blue Herons were seen on one afternoon before the freeze-up, but only one could be found after that, huddled on the shore in the calf pasture cove. The flock of nearly fifty American Coots that has gathered (as it always does at this time of year) at the very outer edge of the marsh has not been affected by ice, as that area will remain open for a few more weeks.
An immature Northern Goshawk put in an appearance at the lighthouse on November 19 and opposite 52 Bayshore Road the following morning. A Bald Eagle and a Northern Harrier were in the Owen Point area today. At High Bluff Island there was a Rough-legged Hawk on November 19 and three Red-tailed Hawks on November 20..
A Greater Yellowlegs at Salt Point on November 14 was rather late for that species. Small numbers of Sanderlings and close to 100 Dunlins were still present before most of the shoreline around Popham Bay froze over, and single Dunlins were present on the beach and at the lighthouse after that. A lone Purple Sandpiper seen on the beach on November 15 and on Gull Island on November 16 and 18 may still remain for a while, as that species seems to be able to find places to forage after most other shorebirds have fled. An Iceland Gull on November 15 was the only uncommon larid spotted in the past week.
Three species of owls were found, a Great Horned Owl along Paxton Drive, two Snowy Owls, one of which is usually visible even from the mainland on Sebastopol Island or Gull Island, and a Barred Owl near the east end of the Newcastle trail that kept a close eye (actually two dark ones) on a birder that was walking past beneath it.
A Belted Kingfisher, a Northern Shrike, and two very vocal Common Ravens were seen on November 19. A late Ruby-crowned Kinglet was in the trees at 191 Bayshore Road on November 15. Two birders chatting about unrelated matters in the doorway of 186 Bayshore Road on November 19 were pleasantly surprised (startled?) when a bright Pine Warbler suddenly appeared from nowhere and sat briefly almost within arm's length. It flew off but returned to the feeders a few minutes later. Again on the following morning it made several brief visits to the feeders and returned at infrequent intervals until late afternoon on November 20. It is over a month later than previous fall record for the Park and will continue to set new records each day if it continues to visit the feeders. The feeders at 85 Bayshore Road were hosting an American Tree Sparrow, a Song Sparrow, and three White-throated Sparrows on November 19, and five Red-winged Blackbirds and three Common Grackles on the following day. Two different Purple Finches, a male and a female, have been patronizing the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road, and three Common Redpolls were feeding in the nearby trees on November 19. Not far away on the same day were two Pine Siskins. Surprisingly, the host of American Goldfinches that was frequenting local feeders up till November 19 appears to have disappeared overnight. A female House Sparrow, the first since late September, fed briefly at those feeders on November 17.
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 and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, 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.