Rare birds always make for excitement, but the discovery of two in one week at Presqu'ile Provincial Park has been a bonus.
Two BLUE-WINGED TEAL and a few REDHEADS, as well as an AMERICAN COOT, were spotted by Park staff visiting High Bluff Island. A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was at the lighthouse on Monday and another was found yesterday. Shorebirds have been somewhat erratic, showing up in good numbers and variety on at least two days and being virtually absent on other days. Some of the more interesting ones were a BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, a RED KNOT (last seen on August 11), two STILT SANDPIPERS yesterday, up to three BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS, a PECTORAL SANDPIPER, fifteen SHORT--BILLED DOWITCHERS on High Bluff Island, several AMERICAN WOODCOCKS flushed from the roadside before dawn, a SOLITARY SANDPIPER, and single WILSON'S PHALAROPES in two different locations. In August mega-rarities (defined here as birds that have been recorded only once at Presqu'ile) have been known to show up. Examples are a CURLEW SANDPIPER that stayed for ten days in 1985, a LONG-TAILED JAEGER on August 22, 2001 (the only jaeger that often visits Lake Ontario in August), a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD on August 4, 2012, and a THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD less than a month later. A LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was on the beach on August 12. While at least three dozen COMMON TERNS were present throughout last week, they suddenly disappeared on the weekend. The most recent sighting of the CATTLE EGRET that pleased so many birders for much of last week was on Friday morning.
Both RED-BELLIED and PILEATED WOODPECKERS were seen this week. A PEREGRINE FALCON flew over 83 Bayshore Road on August 12 and another was at High Bluff Island on August 15. The first OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER of the season appeared this morning. A CAROLINA WREN was heard on Atkins Lane on Sunday. At least one BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER was seen in the past week. The first SWAINSON'S THRUSH of the season was at the lighthouse on August 14. A good variety of the more common species of warbler has been in the Park this week, including two sightings of not-so-common BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS. The rarity of the week, along with the aforementioned CATTLE EGRET, has been an elusive (at least to this observer) PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, first photographed at the calf pasture on August 13 and still present there this morning. This is only the second fall record for that species at Presqu'ile. Among other things, the buzz about that bird has included discussions about how its name should be pronounced. A mediaeval scholar once pointed out that a high-ranking notary of that era was expected to wear a golden hood, and that the bird was clearly named for that reason and should be pronounced "pro tho notary", with the accent on the antepenult ("no").
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. 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.