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Birding Report

Birding at Presqu’ile Provincial Park has been made difficult during the past week by slippery walking conditions and by the fact that Lighthouse Lane and Paxton Drive remain closed to vehicular traffic.  Clean-up of those roads will begin next week, but in the meantime they are open to pedestrian traffic.  Moreover, Presqu’ile Bay and Popham Bay have been frozen over on most days, thus making waterfowl observation possibilities sporadic. 

One of two interesting sightings this week was of a white phase SNOW GOOSE that flew over towards Presqu’ile Bay on December 31 but could not be re-located.  On the one day when Presqu’ile Bay was open to the government dock (December 29), the ducks had gathered there by the thousands, including the first 15 CANVASBACKS of the "spring” and close to 3,000 REDHEADS.  There were also 8 LESSER SCAUP and 9 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS.  Now that the bay is completely frozen over, not one of those ducks remains, though they may be in the open water of the lake near High Bluff Island, awaiting the next shift in the wind to a westerly direction, which will clear out much of the bay ice. 
There were two RUFFED GROUSE sightings this week.  One wonders whether the two WILD TURKEYS that were at the calf pasture in mid-December are still in the Park, and, if so, whether they will discover one of the bird feeders along Bayshore Road, as one did in a previous winter and as a RUFFED GROUSE has done this winter. 
The other unusual record was an anonymous report of a RED-THROATED LOON.  Since that species is rarely seen at Presqu’ile in winter, details of the observation should be submitted to the Park Office. An adult BALD EAGLE was on the ice of Presqu’ile Bay on December 29 and was seen in flight on January 1. 

Although, to my knowledge, only one person was intrepid enough to visit Gull Island this week, and that person was wearing cleats on her boots.  There were two sightings of a NORTHERN HARRIER there, one identified from Owen Point, as was a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK on High Bluff Island.  December 29 was the best day for gulls in recent weeks.  On the ice off the government dock were RING-BILLED, HERRING, GLAUCOUS, and 25 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS.  In addition an ICELAND GULL and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL were at Owen Point.  SNOWY OWL sightings continue on the offshore islands. 

BARRED OWLS were seen twice, including one flying around over a cottage in broad daylight. The most reliable locations for finding RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS are at 83 and 186 Bayshore Road.  The occasional drumming of HAIRY WOODPECKERS has been a welcome, spring-like sound.  A PILEATED WOODPECKER was heard in Newcastle woods.  Flocks of AMERICAN ROBINS in  the sky on December 29 (a total of about 60 birds) were the most recent sightings of that species, leading to speculation that they might have decided to vacate the Park in favour of other locations with more abundant or less ice-covered food.  One observer saw a flock of 110 SNOW BUNTINGS flying over Owen Point.  A SONG SPARROW continues to visit the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road and another possible sighting was at Owen Point.  A WHITE-THROATED SPARROW continues to visit the feeders at 83 and 85 Bayshore Road, where a COMMON GRACKLE is also present. 

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 exercise extreme caution. The entire approach to the island is covered with glare ice, and footing is dangerous.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. 
Fred Helleiner