Although the star attraction at Presqu'ile Provincial Park this week has been a duck, it is the hordes of newly arrived migrants that have kept birders hopping. In the past week, sixteen species of birds were found in the Park for the first time this year, most of them in the past two days.
Red-throated Loons and Common Loons have both been seen this week, the former on March 27 in their usual location (Popham Bay) and the latter at Owen Point and in Presqu'ile Bay. Two Horned Grebes in Popham Bay on March 27 were the first seen here this year. The first two Double-crested Cormorants arrived on March 30, and many more were seen on the next day. An American Bittern was reported on March 25, standing on the ice in the marsh. Great Blue Heron numbers continue to climb every day, and the imminent arrival of the first Great Egrets is keenly anticipated.
Among the huge numbers of Canada Geese that have been passing over Presqu'ile all week, there were two Snow Geese on March 29. A small group of Canada Geese at Owen Point on March 31 contained one Cackling Goose. As mentioned above, a male Eurasian Wigeon has attracted many birders to the Park since its discovery on March 28. Most people have had no trouble locating this striking bird as it swims among the thousands of other ducks in Presqu'ile Bay. It is usually close enough to shore to be seen from Bayshore Road (between property #4 and #42) wherever viewing is possible without trespassing. There is reason to hope that it will still be present on the coming weekend to accommodate those birders who have been unable to come during the week. A few Blue-winged Teal have been around since March 26, along with scores of Green-winged Teal. In one mixed flock just north of Owen Point on March 31 there was one male Eurasian Teal. Although subspecies are not normally mentioned in these reports, this taxon is recognized in Europe as a distinct species, whereas North American ornithologists have for a number of years been treating it as a subspecies of Green-winged Teal. No doubt some birders lucky enough to see this distinctive-looking bird (if it stays) will have to wrestle with their consciences in deciding whether to add it to their lists. Although the small group of White-winged Scoters off Salt Point continues to be a point of interest, there have not yet been any reports of Surf Scoters or Black Scoters, both of which may be expected to arrive soon.
The first Osprey of the year flew over the marsh on March 31. Northern Harriers were also migrating on that day. A Merlin was seen on March 26 and March 30, the first near the lighthouse and the second at the calf pasture.
Two Ruffed Grouse were heard drumming in the woods on March 27. Two American Woodcocks were flushed near the lighthouse on March 30, the first day of the major influx of land birds. On March 31, the first two Bonaparte's Gulls of the season flew past Owen Point, where a Glaucous Gull had been seen on the day before. That is also where the first Caspian Tern of the season may be expected in the next few days.
A Great Horned Owl was being mobbed by American Crows behind the bird sightings board. For seven consecutive days up to March 29, a Snowy Owl could be found somewhere at Presqu'ile, whether on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay, at the tip of Salt Point, or on the gravel bar between Owen Point and Gull Island.
A Belted Kingfisher, many Eastern Phoebes, and a few Tree Swallows were among the recent arrivals. After an apparent absence on Friday and Saturday, the Tufted Titmouse that has been drawing birders to Presqu'ile all winter re-appeared for three more days (up to March 29). During that time he whistled and he sang till the green wood rang, but he could not win (or even find) the heart of a lady and may well have left the area permanently. He is already being missed!
Among the swarms of migrants on March 31, there were Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Meadowlarks, two Purple Finches, and many, many sparrows, including two Fox Sparrows that scratched and foraged all day under the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road. The six Snow Buntings that flew over Owen Point on March 27 and the lone Common Redpoll that fed daily at 186 Bayshore Road until March 26 may well prove to be the last of the winter. For the second time in less than a week, a House Sparrow, normally rare at Presqu'ile, visited a feeder at that same address, but this one was a female, unlike the one seen a few days earlier.
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.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.