In the closing days of the year the weather has been unseasonably cold at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, but has begun to warm up in the last 48 hours. As is often the case under such conditions, there has been a return of birds, particularly waterfowl, that had apparently departed for the winter.
Among hundreds of Canada Geese in Presqu'ile Bay on December 30 before being flushed by a helicopter, there was a bird seen by two different observers, but in unsatisfactory views in both cases, that both thought was a Snow Goose. Among the 200-300 Mute Swans in the bay, there is a handful of Tundra Swans. The first Canvasback seen at Presqu'ile since last spring was a male off Salt Point on December 29. After disappearing during the recent cold spell, Redheads and Greater Scaup began pouring in during the last two days, with the promise of more in the next couple of days.
The only Bald Eagle sighting of the past week was an adult that flew past the lighthouse and into the bay on December 26. A Northern Harrier flew past Gull Island on December 29. A Glaucous Gull was in the bay on December 26 and 29.
Gull Island is still a reliable place to find a Snowy Owl, the one that was seen there on December 29 and 30 being darker than any of the previous individuals in the Park. A Barred Owl was reportedly seen on December 28, but other reports of that species have turned out to be misidentifications of the normally much rarer Great Gray Owl, several of which have been in the Park for the past four days. There is usually at least one hunting in the fields around the calf pasture. Two birds, likely the same ones, were also seen at the north end of the group campground, which is not far away. However, the one seen at the bird sightings board on December 30 may well be a different bird.
Two Northern Flickers were seen on December 30; one was just inside the Park gate and the other, at the calf pasture, was probably the same individual that has made several visits to a local feeder in the past week and has made sporadic appearances prior to that. A Northern Shrike was at Gull Island on December 29. The Tufted Titmouse at the end of Bayshore Road visits the feeders and the bird bath at 186 Bayshore Road several times a day. Half a dozen Golden-crowned Kinglets at the bird sightings board exhibited concern about the presence of a Great Gray Owl. As many as 55 American Robins can be found in the Park these days with a bit of searching. Cedar Waxwings have also begun to show up. As yet there have been no Bohemian Waxwings in the Park this year, but the potential is there. Two White-throated Sparrows have taken up residence at 83 Bayshore Road. A flock of 60 Snow Buntings was at Gull Island on December 29, but had disappeared by that afternoon. Common Redpolls have recently become the most abundant finch at Presqu'ile; the flocks warrant scrutiny for the possibility that a Hoary Redpoll may be among them.
The birders who live at 186 Bayshore Road, one of whom writes these reports (and the other who denies being a birder for fear of being caught out in a misidentification), have been pleased to meet so many wonderful birders, novices and experts alike, who have visited during the past year, and are hoping that the new year will provide them with many more reasons to visit.
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. Although the channel separating Gull Island from Owen Point appears to be frozen over, the thickness of the ice is probably unreliable because of the underlying currents.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.