Fortunately for those who came to Presqu'ile Provincial Park for the Warblers and Whimbrels festival last weekend, Sunday was one of the best birding days of the month, with good numbers of many species and a rare visitor from the south. That day was sandwiched between several days with less productive birding.
Broods of young Canada Geese have been around for a number of days, and the moult migration of northward-bound adults will soon be in full swing. Brant have been seen at both ends of the Park, at least up until last weekend off Owen Point. Five Northern Pintails on May 17 and two American Wigeons on the following day were unexpected. Pairs of Redheads have been seen both in Popham Bay and in the marsh, where they likely breed. Both Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters were in the Owen Point area late last week. Red-throated Loons can still be spotted off the beaches in Popham Bay, with nine individuals there on May 18 and one as recently as May 22.
The highlight of the week was a Snowy Egret that stood in plain view on a dock at Salt Point while a crowd of birders watched in delight. That made May 18 a two-egret day for a number of observers who also saw one or more of the resident Great Egrets.
A Cooper's Hawk was observed feeding on a Baltimore Oriole. A Merlin was seen near the east end of the peninsula, where single Peregrine Falcons were spotted on May 16 and 17. Another highlight was a Sandhill Crane that flew in and landed in the marsh on May 16.
The shorebird migration is now well under way, with sixteen species seen since May 20, mostly on the beach, where there are piles of flotsam and extensive ephemeral pools of water that provide great habitat and feeding opportunities. Rubber boots may be needed to get to the water's edge. Black-bellied Plovers arrived on May 18 and have been there each day since then. This is the time of year when Piping Plovers and even a Snowy Plover have appeared at Presqu'ile in recent years. The first Whimbrel of the year showed up on May 18, and nine of them were on the gravel bar off Owen Point on May 22. The writing of this report was interrupted this evening by a quick trip to see the flock of 27 Red Knots (along with Sanderlings and the largest group of Dunlins to date) that were on Beach 3, perhaps the largest flock of that species in several years. White-rumped Sandpipers were also on the beach on May 21 and 22 and a Short-billed Dowitcher on May 20. A Wilson's Snipe was winnowing over the marsh on May 22, and an American Woodcock has been seen several times this week in the shrubbery near the lighthouse. Those who remained on the beach at dusk this evening after others had tired of watching the impressive shorebird display were rewarded by a fly-past Arctic Tern, a real rarity at Presqu'ile, where only three previous records exist, all within a few days of this date.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers continue to be found in various parts of the Park, and will likely remain evident as long as they continue to vocalize. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were at the lighthouse on May 17 and 20. A Willow Flycatcher was there on May 21. No Alder Flycatchers have yet been heard. A rather late Blue-headed Vireo was seen on May 20. The first Philadelphia Vireo sightings were on May 18. The cold weather of recent days has caused masses of swallows to congregate near the lighthouse and elsewhere, including several Cliff Swallows. A Northern Mockingbird put in a brief appearance at the calf pasture. As expected, warblers have been a major drawing card. They included a Blue-winged Warbler, a few Cape May Warblers, the second Louisiana Waterthrush in just over two weeks (in Jobes' woods), and another Hooded Warbler (bringing this year's total of that species to four, including two males and a female between May 15 and 16). A late Dark-eyed Junco was in the same location on May 17 and 18, and a late Pine Siskin was heard overhead on May 17.
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.