There have been some pleasant birding days at Presqu'ile Provincial Park in the past week (and one or two unpleasant ones). Ice conditions in Presqu'ile Bay have dictated the ease with which water birds can be spotted from vantage points such as the government dock. Even when most of the bay is choked with ice, thousands of ducks manage to squeeze into the few patches of open water. For now, the focus remains on the water birds, but that is likely to change soon as land birds appear in greater numbers in the month of March.
Both TRUMPETER SWANS and TUNDRA SWANS have been present this week. On February 25, three GADWALLS were swimming among the diving ducks in Presqu'ile Bay. The only other dabbling ducks there were AMERICAN BLACK DUCK and MALLARD. A few of those two species, along with a single male NORTHERN PINTAIL, were near High Bluff Island on February 25. Among the eleven species of diving ducks in Presqu'ile Bay there have been singles of RING-NECKED DUCK and HOODED MERGANSER. On Sunday and Monday, two adult and one immature BALD EAGLE were together on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay, where many people could see them. A NORTHERN HARRIER on Gull Island and SHARP-SHINNED and COOPER'S HAWKS were also seen. Thousands of RING-BILLED GULLS have returned to Gull Island and the surrounding waters, creating a welcome spring-like cacophony in that part of the Park. Among them was an ICELAND GULL, another of which was also in Presqu'ile Bay, where an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL delighted a few birders on February 23. On Sunday, three SNOWY OWLS were spotted, two on the beach and one on Sebastopol Island. In the coming month, birders who are willing to make a nocturnal visit to the "fingers” on a windless night are likely to be rewarded by hearing either or both of GREAT HORNED OWL or NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL.
One RED-BELLIED and two PILEATED WOODPECKERS shared the space on a giant tree at the government dock.Five noisy COMMON RAVENS flew from one end of the Park, where they were seen at the lighthouse, to the other end, where someone else saw them at the Park store a few minutes later. In the patch of unfrozen creek opposite 42 Bayshore Road, where a HERMIT THRUSH was discovered earlier in the month, what was presumably the same bird was found again on February 23. Although AMERICAN ROBINS are present in small numbers throughout the winter, on February 23 a flock of a dozen flying over near the lighthouse and another group on the grass of Lighthouse Lane, as well as a flock in nearby Brighton might actually have been early migrants. BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS were abundant in and around Presqu'ile throughout December and then thinned out in January, having presumably stripped their favourite trees of fruit and moved on. Recent sightings around the Brighton area and two in the Park with a flock of CEDAR WAXWINGS on February 24 may be some of those birds returning northward. The SAVANNAH SPARROW first seen in mid-February at 186 Bayshore Road has been at the feeders there for the past ten days, although no one saw it on Monday or Tuesday of this week. At the corner of Langdon Lane and Bayshore Road, at least one WHITE-THROATED SPARROW frequents the cedar hedge. Two flocks (15 and 4) of PINE GROSBEAKS were found in the past week. There are still plenty of COMMON REDPOLLS at 186 Bayshore Road and elsewhere.
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 trudging to Gull "Island” need to exercise extreme caution as ice conditions may make for slippery walking: large, tilted blocks of ice are treacherous, especially when buried in snow. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.