HIGHLIGHTS: LESSER SCAUP, BROWN THRASHER, SONG SPARROW, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD
Its pretty quiet in the Park but the annual mid-winter Waterfowl Survey helped boost the sightings a little.
Ten species of waterfowl were seen within Presqu’ile during the Lake Ontario mid-winter waterfowl survey on 6 Jan. The totals were as follows: CANADA GOOSE 74, MUTE SWAN 4, GREATER SCAUP 284, LESSER SCAUP 1, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER 8, LONG-TAILED DUCK 2214, BUFFLEHEAD 20, COMMON GOLDENEYE 704, COMMON MERGANSER 9, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER 9. There was a fair amount of wave action, plus a 30 minute blizzard that wiped out visibility, so totals might have been higher in calm conditions. In addition several species were seen near the Murray canal in eastern Presqu’ile Bay including TRUMPETER SWAN, MALLARD, CANVASBACK and REDHEAD that were missed in Park waters. The LESSER SCAUP was unusual and was seen with Greaters at Salt Pt. Usually I don’t celebrate low counts but the 4 MUTE SWANS is wonderful news for this nasty invasive species. Only 120 were seen in the whole section, which goes from Barcovan in the east to Wicklow Beach in the west, which is most likely due to an abundance of open water and little reason to concentrate. We have had as many as 900 in some years so a year with 120 feels good. A side benefit of doing the survey was that one party got to see 2 RIVER OTTERS on the ice by Presqu’ile Parkway.
Outside of the survey a few other waterfowl sightings were of interest. Three MALLARD were seen on 8 Jan, and CANVASBACKS were noted several times with 7 on 4 Jan, 3 on 8 Jan and 1 on 9 Jan. 16 REDHEAD were noted on 4 Jan and one on 8 Jan. WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS are seen daily near Salt Pt. with a maximum of 12 on 10 Jan. A single male COMMON MERGANSER was spotted on 5 Jan.
Several Bald Eagles were seen this week with a high of 3 on 8 Jan. A SHARP-SHINNED HAWK was seen at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders on 8 Jan and a COOPER’S HAWK visited the same feeders on 4 Jan. Another COOPER’S HAWK was seen at feeders along Bayshore Rd on 10 Jan. A RED-TAILED HAWK was soaring around the gate on 9 Jan. Large numbers of HERRING GULLS have been roosting in dense groups on the ice of Presqu’ile Bay but so far out that it is hard to pick out other species. A high count of 25 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS was recorded on 4 Jan. Up to 21 MOURNING DOVES were seen at one Bayshore Rd feeder on 10 Jan. Both SNOWY and BARRED OWLS were seen throughout the week.
NORTHERN SHRIKE was seen in the Calf Pasture on 7 Jan. We have reached a point where in the dead of winter COMMON RAVEN may be more frequently seen than AMERICAN CROW – an unimaginable state of affairs 20 years ago. The long staying but infrequently seen BROWN THRASHER was noted at a Bayshore Rd feeder on 7 and 10 Jan. Small numbers of EUROPEAN STARLINGS were seen several times including one bird perched on a treetop on High Bluff Is. on 6 Jan. A knee-deep wade yielded 40 SNOW BUNTINGS flying around Gull Is. on 6 Jan. The only sparrow of note was a SONG SPARROW that was at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders on 4 Jan. Up to 9 NORTHERN CARDINALS were seen at one feeder on 7 and 10 Jan (BG). A RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD was also at the Birdhouse feeders on 4 Jan. A COMMON REDPOLL visited a feeder on 7 Jan which is the only finch, other than AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, reported this week.
Directions: Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, just south of the town of Brighton. It can be reached from either Hwy. 401, or Cty. Rd. 2 and is well signed. A Park map can be found in the information tabloid available at the Park gate. Presqu’ile’s two offshore islands – Gull and High Bluff – support a large multi-species colonial bird nesting area and access is not permitted during the breeding season (10 March-10 September).