Compared to other recent years at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, this could legitimately be called the year of the shorebirds, and the past week has certainly been the week of the shorebirds, their numbers overshadowing all other bird sightings.
Bolstered by an influx of moult migrants, the concentration of Canada Geese along the beach has become spectacular. One has to hope that the rain will wash away their droppings before the masses of sun-lovers arrive. The first brood of six Mute Swan cygnets was observed today in the marsh. Among the ducks that have been seen in the past week are a male Wood Duck in the marsh, Gadwalls, Redheads, Lesser Scaup (each of those three on a regular basis), a female Surf Scoter at the lighthouse on the first three days of this month, four White-winged Scoters flying past the lighthouse, a male Common Merganser at the beach on May 30, and several pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers. It remains to be seen whether the single Common Loons seen on three occasions this week in Presqu'ile Bay are mated and will repeat last year's successful breeding.
Both Northern Harrier and Merlins have been observed causing a disturbance among the shorebirds on the beach. The thousands of shorebirds that have landed on the beach and on Gull Island appear to have suddenly all but moved on within the past day or so. While it lasted (and sometimes it lasted for only a few hours at a time before being replaced by a slightly different mix), the display came close to rivalling the autumn migration of Semipalmated Sandpipers in the Bay of Fundy. Here are a few of the highlights: 67 Black-bellied Plovers on June 1; at least another couple of dozen of that species accompanied by a single Willet on June 2 (both of those flocks were observed flying off and not returning); single Whimbrels on May 30 and June 1; scores of Ruddy Turnstones; over 30 Red Knots on June 4; hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Dunlins; a female Wilson's Phalarope (the second in just over a week). It is of particular interest that a few of the Red Knots seen in the past couple of weeks were wearing coloured tags on their legs. At least two of them were banded in Argentina and one in Surinam.
Although most of the Red-bellied Woodpeckers are less vocal than a month ago, they are still being detected regularly in at least three different parts of the Park. At least eight species of flycatchers have been seen at Presqu'ile in the past week, including Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, and Willow Flycatcher. A Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
was near the lighthouse on June 2. A trickle of migrant warblers (ten species) was still evident on June 1, and even fewer on subsequent days. Singles of Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark were at the calf pasture. That is also one of several locations where Orchard Orioles are regularly being seen. A female Purple Finch visited a feeder at 83 Bayshore Road on June 4. Regrettably, a pair of House Sparrows near the lighthouse, until recently a rare species at Presqu'ile, has fledged four young. It is of some concern that no one has found either a Whip-poor-will or a Common Nighthawk at Presqu'ile this spring, though the possibility of a late migrant still exists.
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.