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Birding Report Presqu'ile Provincial Park has been flooded with migrating birds during the past week. Most of the land birds are members of the sparrow family, but others, as well as water birds and shorebirds, have also been well represented. To spice up the birding trips to the Park, visitors have been able, with little difficulty, to find at least one rarity.
Common Loons and Horned Grebes (up to 200 of the latter on October 12) have been congregating in the offshore waters. Red-necked Grebes have been observed off the lighthouse and in Popham Bay, where most of the Horned Grebes have been seen. Sporadic sightings of Great Egrets have occurred, on October 12 and 13.
Five Wood Ducks were in the marsh on October 10. The lookout opposite the campground office generally yields a good number of dabbling ducks, that are feeding on the marsh vegetation, including a number of Green-winged Teal. American Black Duck numbers in their usual haunts along the south shore of the peninsula are building up already towards the hundreds that can be expected there by December. On the Christmas Bird Count last year, 1397 were counted. In the large rafts of Greater Scaup in Popham Bay, there are a few Redheads, and on October 12 a Black Scoter was also swimming with them. A Surf Scoter near the lighthouse on October 13 and a number of White-winged Scoters off the south shore rounded out the tally of scoters this week. The first Buffleheads of the season were off the south shore on October 12, and a few more were off Gull Island on October 14. Three Common Goldeneyes were in Popham Bay on October 14, as well as several hundred Red-breasted Mergansers.
Three species of falcons were in the Park during the past week. As recently as October 14, a Merlin was still patrolling the shores of Gull Island. A Peregrine Falcon was sighted on October 8 and 12. A Ruffed Grouse that was flushed from beside the Visitor Centre on October 11 was accompanied by a second bird on the following day.
There was still a reasonable selection (ten species) of shorebirds on the beach and on the offshore islands since the latest report last week. Three Greater Yellowlegs were there on October 11. On October 8, two Hudsonian Godwits and a Long-billed Dowitcher, both fairly rare in this area, showed up. One of the godwits disappeared after that day, perhaps the victim of a Peregrine Falcon or of a misidentification during the waterfowl hunt (that happened to a Marbled Godwit here 25 years ago), but the other godwit was seen every day until at least October 13. Two Semipalmated and one White-rumped Sandpiper were on Gull Island on October 14. Little Gulls were seen on October 10 at the lighthouse and on October 13 in Popham Bay, where there are many Bonaparte's Gulls.
Among the land birds at Presqu'ile, Eastern Phoebes can still be found every day. The first-ever fall sighting at Presqu'ile of a White-eyed Vireo near the lighthouse on October 13 has caused a stir of excitement among local birders. Blue-headed Vireos are also still present, with one observer counting three individuals on October 10. Good-sized flocks of Tree Swallows moved past the lighthouse on October 9 and 10. A somewhat elusive Tufted Titmouse, also the first-ever fall record at Presqu'ile, was found at a feeder at 191 Bayshore Road on October 9, and has been seen at least once every day since then, either at the original location or at the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road or in the trees and bushes between there and the lighthouse. Endless patience seems to be the requisite strategy for finding this bird, but speculation has begun among birders that it might stay now for some time, perhaps even until the Christmas Bird Count in December or even all winter.
The bushes and trees around the lighthouse have been alive with birds all week, including Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Ruby-crowned Kinglets (almost to the point of annoyance!), Hermit Thrushes, a thrush whose description fitted that of Swainson's Thrush, and five species of warblers (Orange-crowned, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackpoll). An Orange-crowned Warbler, a Nashville Warbler, and a Northern Parula were seen elsewhere in the Park on October 9.
As mentioned at the outset, sparrows and their allies have been ubiquitous this week. An Eastern Towhee has been patronizing the feeder at 83 Bayshore Road, and a Fox Sparrow was at the lighthouse on October 11 and on the Owen Point trail on October 12, but the large flocks of sparrows have consisted mostly of Chipping, Song, White-throated, and White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncoes. No American Tree Sparrows have yet been reported from the Park, but they may be expected soon. A Lapland Longspur was on Gull Island on October 14, soon to be followed, I fear, by Snow Buntings. They arrived on October 19 last year and on October 20 the year before. A late Rose-breasted Grosbeak was at the lighthouse on October 13. Seven Eastern Meadowlarks were at the calf pasture on October 12. Purple Finches and Pine Siskins have begun to accompany the numerous American Goldfinches visiting feeders along Bayshore Road.
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 be prepared to wade through knee-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.