The Presqu’ile Christmas Bird Count was held on 15 Dec in windy, rough-water, difficult conditions but it generated some interesting results none-the-less. Virtually all observers both in the Park and in other areas noted the general lack of birds. Collectively the overall total was below average, and area totals were well down from normal levels. The Park had the highest area total at 47 species, but that is well down from recent norms.
The inner portion of Presqu’ile Bay is frozen and the number of wintering ducks seems low. The Count turned up six REDHEAD, a female CANVASBACK, and five LESSER SCAUP among 102 GREATER SCAUP. Three WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS were still hanging in and the best waterfowl find of the count was a lone BLACK SCOTER seen off the Lighthouse.
RUFFED GROUSE have been scarce of late and only one was found on the Count despite participants walking over 36 km. Another Count surprise was a COMMON LOON seen flying against the wind. An immature SHARP-SHINNED HAWK was seen on 19 Dec. BALD EAGLES were seen throughout the week with a high count of eight, all standing on the ice of Presqu’ile Bay on Count day.
Shorebirds were a highlight with PURPLE SANDPIPERS seen on and off at Owen Pt. through the week, peaking with seven on the Count. At least three were still present on 17 Dec. A DUNLIN was also seen on the Count with the PURPLE’S, and was seen again on 17 Dec. Three ICELAND and a GLAUCOUS GULL were found roosting on the ice of Presqu’ile Bay with HERRING, RING-BILLED and GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS during the Count.
The only owl reports were of the odd SNOWY, either on the islands or Presqu’ile Bay. NORTHERN SHRIKES have been virtually absent this winter with only one November sighting. One was found outside the Park on the count, but another turned up 16 Dec just outside the park, and presumably the same one was seen the next day along the causeway.
The old conifer plantations, as well as native Hemlock forest, always provide winter refuge for GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET and BROWN CREEPER. The intensive coverage from the count gives a good example of actual numbers with 59 and 21 found respectively. A WINTER WREN was also found on the Count. EUROPEAN STARLINGS become quite scarce (or absent) in cold weather but four were seen flying in from High Bluff Island in a snowstorm on 17 Dec.
Sparrows remain very scarce this winter. The Count revealed only 22 DARK-EYED JUNCO, eight AMERICAN TREE SPARROW and two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS. On 16 Dec, the day after the Count, a SONG SPARROW appeared at the Birdhouse Nature Store (just outside the gate) feeder and was seen again the next day. Two COMMON GRACKLES have been frequenting the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders through the week. Finally finches are essentially absent with only three HOUSE FINCHES and 30 AMERICAN GOLDFINCH being seen on the Count.
IMPORTANT NOTE: After 21 December the annual waterfowl hunt ends and birders and the general public will regain the use of all areas of the Park.
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).