In most parts of Ontario, the time when winter birding becomes transformed into spring birding is some time in March, but at Presqu'ile Provincial Park that transformation occurs much earlier, with the arrival of ducks and other water birds. Even before the end of February, almost 60 species of birds have been sighted at Presqu'ile since the beginning of the year, and several of those are returned migrants.
At present, the greatest concentration of waterfowl can be viewed from the government dock on Bayshore Road. Among the many Mute Swans visible from that point, there was another swan on February 19 which appeared from a distance to be a Trumpeter Swan. With the mild weather of the past 24 hours, a few dabbling ducks have re-appeared, including several Gadwalls and American Wigeons. Canvasbacks, as many as four at a time, have been present since February 12. In addition to the three or four White-winged Scoters that have been lingering in Presqu'ile Bay for the past few weeks, a surprising flock of 22 individuals flew westward past Gull Island on February 19.
One or two Bald Eagles can occasionally be seen harassing the ducks in the bay. For over an hour on February 18, an adult was observed on a drifting ice floe as it tore apart and consumed what was presumably a duck.Another adult was perched on High Bluff Island the next morning. Both Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks and a Northern Harrier were seen in the Park on February 19.
There has been a build-up in the past few days of gulls, including several hundred Ring-billed Gulls in the vicinity of Gull Island, presumably waiting for the first bare patches of ground to be revealed. A Glaucous Gull was also there on February 19. Lest anyone question whether a February birding trip to Presqu'ile is worthwhile, bear in mind that, three years ago, an American Woodcock arrived at the lighthouse on February 26.
While the number and variety of water birds are significantly different from what they were a week ago at Presqu'ile, the land birds are much the same as they have been all winter, though aspects of their behaviour indicate the imminence of spring. A large owl was flushed in the woods alongside Lighthouse Lane, most likely a Barred Owl, but its identity could not be confirmed.
A Northern Flicker seen near the government dock was the second of that species seen at Presqu'ile recently. Pileated Woodpeckers are being discovered more frequently these days, perhaps because they are more vocal than before. For the second time in as many weeks, Golden-crowned Kinglets were in the spruces next to the government dock on February 19. American Robins are flying around the Park, sometimes high above the trees in which they have been sheltering all winter. On a very cold but bright morning last weekend, a Northern Cardinal was singing as if it were spring. The seven Red-winged Blackbirds and the Common Grackle that have been seen periodically throughout the winter near Langdon Avenue have re-appeared after an absence of over two weeks and are becoming more vocal. As yet, the two Song Sparrows wintering at 186 Bayshore Road have not been heard attempting to sing.
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. Although the channel separating Gull Island from Owen Point appears to be frozen over, the thickness of the ice is probably unreliable because of the underlying currents.