With the complete disappearance of shorebirds and many other birds from Presqu'ile Provincial Park since the weekend, birders are having to spend more and more time in the field to come up with a decent day's list. Fortunately, with a few exceptions, the weather during the past week has been exceptionally pleasant for pursuing that exercise.
A small group of Red-throated Loons and a few Common Loons were feeding in the waters off the lighthouse on November 21 and 22, and one of the former was floating on its back on the following day, perhaps having succumbed to botulism. Prior to the weekend, there were still dozens of Horned Grebes in Popham Bay, but no one has reported one anywhere at Presqu'ile since then.
Small flocks of Tundra Swans remain in the area, either flying over or resting in the water. It seems likely that much of the marsh will freeze over tonight, and that will drive out the few American Wigeons and Green-winged Teal that have been accompanying the commoner ducks there. Four Black Scoters were still in Popham Bay on November 22, and one White-winged Scoter was close to shore off the day use area on November 25.
In contrast to last week, five species of hawks were found in the Park in the past seven days: an adult Bald Eagle that flew in from over Lake Ontario and landed on High Bluff Island; a Sharp-shinned Hawk that buzzed a feeder; a Northern Goshawk that flew over another feeder; at least one Rough-legged Hawk; and a late Merlin along the beach on November 21.
A Ruffed Grouse was at the lighthouse on November 22. The flock of American Coots in Presqu'ile Bay had dwindled to two birds on November 21, and even those two appear to have left. The only shorebirds seen this week were a very late American Golden-Plover
, a Sanderling, and two Dunlins, all on November 21. Birders are left wondering whether the usual November influx of Purple Sandpipers will materialize at all this year. In contrast to the hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls that were present a week ago, there are only a few dozen left. One Little Gull was spotted among them on November 21.
For many Park visitors, the continuing presence of Snowy Owls on the offshore islands has been an attraction, especially since three different individuals were visible at the same time from Owen Point on November 21.
A Belted Kingfisher was at the calf pasture on November 23 and will likely remain in that vicinity until the December 19 Christmas Bird Count unless there is a significant freeze-up between now and then. Northern Shrikes have been seen in three different parts of the Park this week. Five Horned Larks on the beach on November 19 may well be the last of that species to show up at Presqu'ile until early spring, which could be as soon as two months away!
Unless a predator interferes, it seems more certain than ever that a new species will be added to the all-time Christmas Bird Count list at Presqu'ile this year, that being a Tufted Titmouse. The one that has been present since October 9 is making increasingly frequent visits to the feeders at 186 and 191 Bayshore Road. Cedar Waxwings are not normally a bird worth reporting, but the one seen at 83 Bayshore Road last week appears to be the only one seen in the Park this month. At 85 Bayshore Road, a White-throated Sparrow is taking advantage of a well-stocked feeder, which also hosted three Red-winged Blackbirds and five Common Grackles on November 19.
The only finches that have yet appeared at feeders in the Park are Purple Finches, House Finches, Pine Siskins, and American Goldfinches, all of which, in increasing order of abundance, have been present this week. Common Redpolls and Evening Grosbeaks may arrive on the heels of the cold front that has just passed through.
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 should be prepared to wade through shin-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.