At Presqu'ile Provincial Park, the weeks before and after the annual Warblers and Whimbrels weekend (which this year is on May 16/17) offer some of the best birding of the year. The week just ending has been typical.
The first flocks of Brant have appeared, with ten birds on Gull Island on May 13 and about 35 flying past the lighthouse on May 14. Redheads and unidentified scaup have been in Popham Bay this week. On calm days, hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks can be seen far offshore. They will soon be leaving for the Arctic, which, of course, has been frozen up till now. The most recent sightings of Red-throated Loons in Popham Bay were on May 12. A Least Bittern was spotted from the newly re-opened boardwalk on May 13. Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons can be seen every day. An Osprey over Presqu'ile Bay and two Broad-winged Hawks on May 8 were the only diurnal raptors noted in the past week.
Shorebirds now number around 100 birds, including two Black-bellied Plovers on May 12 and a different two on May 14. The vast majority are Semipalmated Plovers and Least Sandpipers, with a sprinkling of Dunlins, a Sanderling on May 10, and, on May 12 and 13, a Short-billed Dowitcher. An American Woodcock was seen on May 11. It's a bit early for Whimbrels to show up, but if the weather cooperates there may be some here during the next week. A Glaucous Gull was photographed on the beach on May 10 and was seen at Owen Point on the next day. A Barred Owl was found on two different days.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are still vocal enough to be easily found, but will soon go silent and perhaps disappear altogether for the summer. No one has yet located a Red-headed Woodpecker at Presqu'ile this spring, but that may change in the next week. On May 8, a particularly good birding day in the Park, a group of birders saw five species of vireos, including a Yellow-throated Vireo and a Philadelphia Vireo. A Common Raven was at the calf pasture on May 10. Just as the cold front was passing this afternoon, a swarm of over 100 swallows gathered near the lighthouse, among which was at least one Cliff Swallow, the first of the year at Presqu'ile. A highlight of the week for many visiting birders was the easily observed nest of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers near the lighthouse. Brown-headed Cowbirds have also discovered it, and there are signs that the nest may be abandoned. Although Eastern Bluebirds are not known to nest in the Park, two were seen on May 8 and another on May 11. A Northern Mockingbird spent part of May 14 between 83 and 87 Bayshore Road and was still there this evening. Warblers have not yet reached their peak numbers at Presqu'ile this month, but the variety has been good. Among others, there have been Blue-winged Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, Northern Parulas, Cape May Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, a Cerulean Warbler, American Redstarts, and a Wilson's Warbler. An anonymous report of a Connecticut Warbler requires documentation as it is much earlier than any previous record here.
Adding colour to the scene are numerous Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. A Clay-colored Sparrow at the calf pasture suggests that the species may again establish a territory there. A Lincoln's Sparrow was at the lighthouse on May 8. Rusty Blackbirds were seen on two different days.
As long as people continue feeding them, Pine Siskins appear to be inclined to stay as long as they are welcome.
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.