HIGHLIGHTS: HOODED MERGANSER X COMMON GOLDENEYE, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, BROWN THRASHER
It has been another quiet week with minimal coverage. There are a few hints that spring is coming, particularly with an increase in diving ducks. There were also more cases of birds seen in places they haven’t been all winter, but its difficult to tell which are actual migrants versus local wintering birds starting to move around a bit more.
Presqu’ile Bay was frozen for much of the week pushing diving ducks out into the open lake where they were hard to see hiding behind massive ice accumulations along the south shore. Diving ducks, when visible, are clearly starting to increase with high counts of 9 CANVASBACK on 23 and 26 Feb, and 350 REDHEAD on 23 Feb. WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS also picked up with a high of 35 on 22 Feb. The most interesting waterfowl was a hybrid HOODED MERGANSER X COMMON GOLDENEYE that was seen near the Lighthouse on 23 Feb. This is only the second time this hybrid has been recorded here – the first being found several years ago at the same location by the same observer!
WILD TURKEYS have not been as obvious recently with only a few sightings this week leaving one seasoned observer to wonder if there has been some winter mortality from all the ice and snow. BALD EAGLES were seen on several dates with at least 2 immature and one adult involved. The only other raptor reports were of single COOPER’S HAWKS on 22 and 24 Feb. A GREAT HORNED OWL was reported on 23 Feb and a BARRED OWL on 22 Feb was the only other owl sighting.
Three BROWN CREEPERS on 22 Feb is the largest single day count since the CBC in December – likely local wintering birds coming out of the woodwork rather than new migrants. At least two EASTERN BLUEBIRDS could be heard calling near the park office on 22 Feb. These might be part of the same group of 6 that was at the Birdhouse Nature Store about 300m away from 14-18 Feb. An AMERICAN ROBIN in a treetop at the Lighthouse on 23 Feb might have been a migrant. The wintering BROWN THRASHER is still going strong at a Bayshore Rd feeder.
A single SNOW BUNTING flew over the gate area during a blizzard on 25 Feb. Another possible migrant was a male RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD that spent part of 27 Feb at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders, just outside the gate where none have been in weeks.
On a final note unrelated to birds, I would like to suggest caution around the large “ice volcano” formations that have developed along the south shore. These spectacular formations are especially substantial this year and should be enjoyed for sure. Maybe I am a chicken but I do not walk out on these for fear they might collapse or calve off, or I might slide off into the water. If that happened and you ended up in the water you would not be able to get back out. Nor can you be seen from shore. On family day there must have been 40 people taking pictures and exploring the formations from the very edge, which just strikes me a precarious and ill advised.
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).