With apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber, "the woods are alive with the sound of songbirds" at Presqu'ile Provincial Park. At least, that has been the theme among birders for most of this week. Any number of migrants have returned earlier than usual, some of them on record-breaking early dates. On most days, birding in the Park has been reminiscent of early to mid-May.
A male Eurasian Wigeon was swimming among the reeds off 18 Bayshore Road on April 27, while a late female Canvasback, the first since March, swam nearby. A remarkable 20 Northern Pintails were seen on April 24. A male Black Scoter was in Popham Bay on April 27. Red-throated Loons continue to be seen there on most days, with a high count of ten on April 25 despite rough waters. Great Egrets are on their nests on High Bluff Island and Black-crowned Night-Herons have re-occupied Sebastopol Island. Both species can be observed from points on the mainland with the aid of a scope.
Raptor sightings worthy of mention include a Cooper's Hawk and a Broad-winged Hawk on April 27, at least one Merlin, and a Peregrine Falcon at the lighthouse on April 30. A Snowy Owl on April 25 was exceptionally late. Two Barred Owls in neighbouring trees not far from the Nature Centre on April 28 tried to out-stare the birder beneath them. A Wild Turkey was at the junction of Atkins Lane and Paxton Drive on April 29. A Virginia Rail was at the marsh boardwalk on April 27.
On the following day, the only Sandhill Crane of the season flew over the marsh heading north-west. Somewhat surprisingly, no one has yet reported a Common Moorhen in the Park this year. Three early Black-bellied Plovers flew over the beach on April 29. A single Dunlin was at beach 3 on April 25. In addition to the ubiquitous Caspian Terns, six Common Terns arrived back on April 30, two at the lighthouse and four at Owen Point. Things took a turn for the better when two Forster's Terns flew over the marsh on April 25 (sorry!).
The first appearance of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was on the record early date of April 26 at 83 Bayshore Road, where it has since been seen regularly. A Red-bellied Woodpecker has also been regular there, as well as at two other locations in the Park. The first of two Great Crested Flycatchers appeared on April 28, tying the previous record early date. Beginning on April 26, Eastern Kingbirds, not normal at Presqu'ile in April, have been found at several locations. The first of several Blue-headed Vireos appeared on April 25, followed by Warbling Vireos on April 27, which ties the previous record early date. Over the past few days, the Blue Jay migration, which peaks in spectacular fashion in late May, has become increasingly evident at the lighthouse.
A Marsh Wren was in an unexpected location at the lighthouse. There have been daily sightings of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers since April 26. Two early thrush sightings were of a Swainson's Thrush on April 26 and a Wood Thrush on April 27. Gray Catbirds were seen on April 28 and 29.
The fourteen species of warblers seen in the past four days are likely the highest April total ever at Presqu'ile. They included both Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers (on April 27 and 28, respectively), the latter two days earlier than the previous record. A Northern Parula was on High Bluff Island on April 29 and a record early Cape May Warbler was at the calf pasture on April 28. The Black-throated Blue Warbler on that date was also a record early arrival. Three lucky observers found a Prothonotary Warbler at the calf pasture on April 27, both of the previous records of that species from Presqu'ile being in mid-May.
Three Eastern Towhees were at the lighthouse on April 27. A Vesper Sparrow was at the calf pasture on April 26. Eastern Meadowlarks, often thought of as early spring migrants, continue to trickle past the lighthouse in obvious migration mode. A Rusty Blackbird was seen on April 25. A female Orchard Oriole on April 28 and several Baltimore Orioles every day since April 27 were unusual before the beginning of May. Hundreds of Pine Siskins have discovered the wealth of nyjer seed at 83 Bayshore Road, one estimate being 300 birds.
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