Despite the persistence of wintry weather through most of the past week at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, there are subtle signs that the noticeably lengthening photoperiod (or perhaps some other stimulus) is fostering some spring-like behaviour in a few birds.
Most of the outer half of Presqu'ile Bay remained open until very recently, and even after a couple of days of sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit) there are extensive patches of open water visible from the government dock. Along the fringes of that open water there are several Canada Geese (unusual in winter at Presqu'ile) and many swans. The majority of the latter are Mute Swans, but whenever it has been possible to check their identity there have also been up to a dozen Tundra Swans and, on January 14 and 15, a single Trumpeter Swan, initially identified by its call. The birds most affected by the partial freeze-up were the thousands of Redheads and Greater Scaup, most of which had headed out of the bay to points unknown by January 17. Neither species was spotted today. A male Canvasback was seen daily until January 16, and a male Lesser Scaup was at the calf pasture on January 14.
No hawks or owls were reported in the Park during the past week, though that may be partly attributed to the almost total absence of birders lately. It is almost certain that at least three species of owls are present, including the likelihood that the Snowy Owl on Gull Island has not moved on. Only a determined birder would venture out to that wind-swept location on days like the past few.
The Northern Flicker that has been spending the winter around 70-100 Bayshore Road was seen again on January 14. On January 15, two Common Ravens were performing their courtship flight over Jobes' woods, and a single bird was heard calling on two subsequent days this week. Although this northern species is not known to nest in the Park, these observations have renewed the speculation that was heard last year that perhaps they have in fact included Presqu'ile among the places in which they are becoming re-established. Further evidence is required.
Even on the coldest mornings, a few Black-capped Chickadees have begun to whistle their spring song lately. Perhaps the next songster will be the Tufted Titmouse that has become a regular patron of the feeders at 186 (and probably 191) Bayshore Road. A Brown Creeper was seen twice and photographed at that location this week. A Golden-crowned Kinglet was found in Jobes' woods earlier in the week, and American Robins are also over-wintering in their normal numbers. Two different flocks of Cedar Waxwings were found on one of the coldest mornings of the week. A flock of Common Redpolls stopped briefly one morning at the feeders at 186 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. 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.