Until today there was very little sign this week, either in the weather conditions or in the bird life, that spring is imminent at Presqu'ile Provincial Park. That has changed now and new migrants are beginning to show up.
At least one of the Trumpeter Swans that have been spending the winter between Cobourg and Presqu'ile was still consorting with the 242 Mute Swans in Presqu'ile Bay today. All three of them were noticed on February 27. With the exception of an increase in the number of Mallards, dabbling ducks, unlike diving ducks, have not yet appeared at Presqu'ile this spring but will likely appear very soon as the ice margin in Presqu'ile Bay retreats to the point where shallow water is ice-free. Look for Gadwalls, Northern Pintails, and Green-winged Teals in the next few days. There are more Canvasbacks there every day, but Redheads apparently fled during the recent freeze-up and are only now beginning to return. A single male Ring-necked Duck was with the other /Aythya/ ducks just east of the calf pasture on March 5. A Hooded Merganser was at the government dock on that date. Two White-winged Scoters were off the lighthouse on March 1. To see more ducks, plan to attend the Waterfowl Festival on March 14/15 and 21/22.
A Bald Eagle was seen on February 28, and a Cooper's Hawk on March 1 and 3. A Great Horned Owl was calling persistently in broad daylight behind the nature centre on March 1. Another large owl, probably the same species if not the same bird, was flushed four times on March 5 near the junction of Paxton Drive and Atkins Lane. On four of the last seven days a Snowy Owl has been around Presqu'ile Bay, most recently (March 4 and 5) roosting in and near the willow trees at the lighthouse, where it sits for most of the daylight hours before flying west along the shore of the bay. A Northern Shrike appeared at the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road on March 3 and another or the same one was at the calf pasture on the following day.
About twenty Snow Buntings were off Owen Point and flying towards Gull Island on March 4. The first migrant blackbirds in the Park were two Red-winged Blackbirds on March 5. On February 28, two Pine Grosbeaks were seen along Paxton Drive. Two male Purple Finches paid a couple of brief visits to the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road on March 1. There are between 50 and 70 Common Redpolls and at least two Hoary Redpolls that regularly visit those feeders. House Sparrows have been seen at two different feeders along Bayshore Road.
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 newly printed tabloid that is available at the Park gate. Access to the offshore islands is restricted after March 9 to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there. In the meantime, the channel between Owen Point and Gull Island was frozen solid on March 4 but may open up with the rising temperatures and the change in wind direction.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.