For the past week, there have been ideal conditions for birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park. That and the reports of new and interesting birds have brought birders to the Park in good numbers and as a result few if any of the wintering birds have been missed and the newly returned and newly singing birds have made for an excellent week of birding in February, which is traditionally a slow month.
The highlight of the week was a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE which was present from February 3 to 6 and may still be somewhere in the area. That species has been seen at Presqu'ile only twice before, in April, 1986 and December, 2002. At the same time, five TUNDRA SWANS were visible on the opposite side of the bay. NORTHERN PINTAILS were at Owen Point on February 4 (two birds) and 7 (four birds). RING-NECKED DUCKS have been seen every day for over a week, up to half a dozen on one day. Single LESSER SCAUP were seen twice. The male BARROW'S GOLDENEYE at the lighthouse has been seen every day for over a month.
Accompanying a small group of COMMON GOLDENEYES in Presqu'ile Bay on February 3 and 6 was a male duck with COMMON GOLDENEYE and HOODED MERGANSER genes. That hybrid has the head shape of the latter without any white on it and has a suggestion of the tan sides. Otherwise it resembles the former species.
Both adult and immature BALD EAGLES have been present, with at least one on four of the past seven days and three sitting together on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay on February 4. NORTHERN HARRIERS have been seen on three of the past four days, both male and female. An adult COOPER'S HAWK was eyeing the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road and another young one was at Owen Point. While RING-BILLED GULLS are apparently returning, they have not yet begun milling around their breeding territories on Gull Island, as they usually do some time in February. On February 7 one observer spotted four SNOWY OWLS, three in the usual places on the beach and the offshore islands and one at the day use area, where there has not been one all winter. Two live birds and a dead one were found today. At least one BARRED OWL was seen on February 4.
BELTED KINGFISHERS have always been absent from Presqu'ile in winter because of the absence of open water. Thus the arrival of one at the calf pasture on February 4 constitutes a new early record date, eclipsing the old record of March 15 by almost six weeks. In addition to the RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER that has been regular at 83 Bayshore Road, one was heard at the lighthouse on February 8, the first in that part of the Park this year. It was also giving the traditional spring call, as was the other one today. A NORTHERN FLICKER at the calf pasture on February 3 was likely the same bird that was seen there in December.
NORTHERN SHRIKES have been seen in three different parts of the Park. A COMMON RAVEN was calling on February 8 at the lighthouse. The wintering CAROLINA WREN was heard near the government dock on February 3. An AMERICAN ROBIN was singing its spring song this morning. The wintering SAVANNAH SPARROW was at 85 Bayshore Road this morning and seems destined to survive the winter, and a PURPLE FINCH was seen there on February 4.
There is a belated report of a flock of 15-20 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS on February 1.
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. Visitors to Gull Island not using a boat should be prepared to wade through ice-choked water of unknown depth, in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven and slippery. Moreover, there is a great deal of ice on the surrounding shore. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.