Back to News
Birding Report Although there are days in winter when the birding seems pretty slim at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, there have been over 60 different species seen in the relatively small area of the peninsula since the beginning of the year. The prolonged cold and CALM weather of the latter half of January has caused both Presqu'ile Bay and Popham Bay to freeze over completely for the first time in several years. This has obviously created difficult conditions for water birds, which have fled to the open waters far offshore and almost out of sight of birders, even those with powerful scopes. Today, however, there has been some breaking up of the ice, and hundreds of ducks are congregating nearer the shore.
Canada Geese and Mute Swans have managed to outlast the cold weather, albeit in considerably reduced numbers. Two Mallards appeared with the other ducks today, the first of that species to appear at Presqu'ile this year and perhaps a sign that other dabbling ducks may also return with the current thaw or soon thereafter. Four Redheads were near the lighthouse today, the first in almost two weeks. Flocks of Greater Scaup were streaming past the Park all day today. A White-winged Scoter was off Gull Island on February 1. In a departure from previous winters, Red-breasted Mergansers are outnumbering Common Mergansers by at least two to one.
An adult Bald Eagle spent most of this morning sitting in a treetop on High Bluff Island. On two separate days, an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk was harassing the smaller birds at the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road, even sitting briefly on the roof of one of the feeders. On February 1, a Northern Harrier was patrolling Gull Island before eventually flying off to High Bluff Island. Another hawk, possibly a Rough-legged Hawk, flew from Gull Island to High Bluff Island today.
Most gulls have remained too far off shore to be identified until today. A group of Ring-billed Gulls on an ice floe off Sebastopol Island appeared ready to re-occupy their nesting ground on Gull Island, on which there is already about 10-20% of bare ground.
There has been only one sighting of a Great Gray Owl at Presqu'ile during the past week, that being on January 28. Pileated Woodpeckers have been very active in the Park lately: Tuesday was the only day of the past week when none was seen, and two or three were seen on most other days. There was an adult Northern Shrike on Gull Island today. The Tufted Titmouse whose temporary residence has been at 186 Bayshore Road for a few months has become restless. It disappeared from early Sunday morning until early this morning (Thursday), when it put in a brief appearance, but on Tuesday it was heard singing its loud spring song a kilometre away in the woods (spring fever?). As yet the American Robins that are so numerous in the Park have not been heard singing.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the week, while not a rare bird, was a Song Sparrow that was foraging on the algae along the shore at the east end of the totally treeless Gull Island on Tuesday. How it survived in that bleak and windswept location all winter is a mystery. There are still two White-throated Sparrows at 85 Bayshore Road. Two flocks of Snow Buntings were discovered where they had not been all winter. The first was feeding on the roadside at the calf pasture on January 29, and on the next day a much larger flock was on the move past the lighthouse. Similar reports from other areas nearby suggest that there might have been an early migration of that species late in January. Only one Pine Grosbeak, a female, was found at Presqu'ile this week, but Common Redpolls are regular visitors to feeders on Bayshore Road.
The only other sighting of interest was a snow-white weasel (ermine) with a black-tipped tail that ran past the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road on Tuesday, the first such beauty that this observer had ever seen after 60+ years of nature study, some of which were in northern Ontario.
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. The channel separating Gull Island from Owen Point is completely frozen over, and, at least for now, access to Gull Island is easier than at any other time of year. A southerly wind could change that very quickly. On the basis of a tragic accident years ago, it would be unwise for anyone to attempt to walk from Gull Island to High Bluff Island, but it certainly seems, for the first time in several years, as if that might be possible. (I am definitely advising against it.)
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.