In addition to the arrival of numerous expected spring birds during the past week, several unexpected rarities spiced up the birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park.
Popham Bay, off the west shore of the Park, has become well known as one of the most reliable places in Ontario, along with Bruce County, to find Red-throated Loons from late March onwards. As many as eight individuals were counted on April 3 and seven on April 8. Judging from past experience, the species will still be present in good numbers throughout this month. Common Loons can now be found in Presqu'ile Bay with a bit of searching, and, for the rest of this month, will likely be flying over the peninsula for an hour or two after dawn each day, provided that weather conditions are suitable. Now that Red-necked Grebes are showing up in other parts of Lake Ontario, they will probably appear in Popham Bay soon, joining the few Horned Grebes that are already there.
A surprisingly early American Bittern was heard in the marsh on April 3. Usually, their arrival is preceded by that of Great Egrets, which have not yet put in their usual appearance at Presqu'ile.
Without a doubt, the birding highlight of the past week in the Park has been the three rare species of waterfowl that were discovered. On April 3, it was a male Barrow's Goldeneye that was consorting with a group of Common Goldeneyes, the first in over five years at Presqu'ile. Finding that bird again has proved problematic and very much dependent on viewing conditions (absence of waves, heat haze, or fog), but it was still present on April 8, when the only interference with observation of the bird was its annoying habit of flying off and landing just out of sight. On the following day (April 4), the same observer found a male Eurasian Wigeon between 16 and 18 Bayshore Road. Although that bird may still be present somewhere in Presqu'ile Bay, no one has been able to find it since its initial sighting. The most recent, and perhaps the most unexpected, rare duck to show up was a female King Eider that spent most of the morning of April 8 with a group of White-winged Scoters in Popham Bay off Owen Point. This is apparently the first time that that species has ever been found at Presqu'ile in spring.
On April 4, an adult Bald Eagle was spotted from two different vantage points as it flew over the peninsula. On the next day, another bird that may well have been an eagle was seen flying low over Popham Bay. On April 3 and 4, there were three sightings of Rough-legged Hawks, two light-phased and one dark-phased. The only other noteworthy raptor of the week was a Short-eared Owl being chased by an American Crow as it flew over Paxton Drive and 71 Bayshore Road on April 6.
An Iceland Gull was sitting on Sebastopol Island on April 3. Bonaparte's Gulls, sometimes accompanied by Little Gulls, have usually reached Presqu'ile by this date, but no one has yet reported the species here this year. They will probably arrive within the next day or so.
A Northern Shrike seen at the calf pasture on the rather late date of April 4 may be the same bird as that seen there sporadically for several weeks. Two Eastern Bluebirds were in that area on April 6. A very early American Pipit landed briefly on a lawn at 186 Bayshore Road in a snowstorm at dusk on April 4.
The first Field Sparrow of the season was singing near Beach 1 on April 3, and the first Fox Sparrows were in Newcastle Woods on the following day. The feeders at 186 Bayshore Road were visited by a Common Redpoll on April 2, four Pine Siskins on April 7, and a male Purple Finch, the first since last fall, on April 8.
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.