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Birding Report Presqu'ile Provincial Park benefitted from the passage of two cool fronts during the past week, each of which was accompanied by a wave of migrating birds. Some of these birds have remained in the Park, building up their reserves for the next leg of their migration.
Among the birds that have been seen periodically throughout the summer at Presqu'ile, the following species have been found at least once during the past week: Common Loon, Great Egret, Common Merganser, and Osprey. Although Merlins actually nested in the Park this summer, the one that has been making passes at the shorebirds on the beach for over a week may well be a migrant.
Now that mats of algae are building up along the shores of the peninsula, Presqu'ile is living up to its reputation as one of the prime locations in Ontario for observing shorebirds in large numbers. Seventeen species have been seen in the past week, mostly along beach 3, where they can be observed at close range, at Owen Point, where they are also tame but can be disturbed by an incautious approach to the shore, and on Gull Island, where identifying them from the mainland shore is problematic and requires at the very least a good spotting scope, until the ban on access to the islands is lifted on September 11. Even at Salt Point, where algae have attracted interesting shorebirds in previous years, there is a small congregation of four species feeding within plain view of Bayshore Road (for those unwilling or unable to leave their cars). Undoubtedly, the participants in this weekend's shorebird workshop will have an excellent opportunity to hone their identification skills. The most interesting species found this week are a Greater Yellowlegs that twice put in a brief appearance, a single Whimbrel that managed to elude most birders while playing hide-and-seek for two or three days, up to four Ruddy Turnstones that can usually be found at Owen Point or on the offshore gravel bar nearby, up to four Red Knots that have also been regular at that location (though more usually on the offshore bar), one or two White-rumped Sandpipers, an unprecedented number (perhaps a hundred) of Baird's Sandpipers that can be seen at any of the above locations and are showing no signs yet of moving on, a small number of Pectoral Sandpipers, a Stilt Sandpiper on August 23, and two rare Buff-breasted Sandpipers that have been seen regularly since August 23, usually on the offshore gravel bar at Owen Point or on the nearest spit of Gull Island. The following comments that appeared in the birding report at this time last year may be of interest:
> numbers of Baird's Sandpipers that exceed anything that the writer has previously observed (fifteen in one flock alone). On at least one day they outnumbered all other shorebirds in the area. The recent prevalence of this normally uncommon species in other parts of the province invites comments and/or explanations.
Among those shorebirds that should be here in good numbers but have been scarce or absent recently are Lesser Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitchers. Other less likely species that may be expected in the coming weeks include Wilson's Phalarope and Red-necked Phalarope. There are still others (American Golden-Plover, Hudsonian Godwit, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher) that usually show up at least once each fall but generally not until somewhat later in the season.
A Parasitic Jaeger that was spotted around Sebastopol Island on August 23 was the first sighting of the season. A few others will likely appear in the next month or two, especially when there are south-westerly winds, as there were when this week's bird appeared.
On August 25, two cuckoos were seen along Paxton Drive less than a kilometre from the lighthouse. At least one of them was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers have increased dramatically this week.
A Philadelphia Vireo was at the calf pasture on August 24. Two or more Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers were at the lighthouse on August 22. An unconfirmed report of an American Pipit near the lighthouse on August 24 would represent the earliest fall date on record for Presqu'ile. At least sixteen species of warblers were reported in the Park this week. Pockets of warblers and other songbirds can be found in many different parts of the Park, but many individuals elude identification because of thick foliage. Both Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers were reported, as well as confirmed sightings of Nashville, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Wilson's, Canada (several of each), and Mourning Warblers. Scarlet Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are also being seen regularly. A Purple Finch visited a feeder at 83 Bayshore Road on August 24.
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 until September 11 to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.