At a time of year when the main focus of birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park is on water birds, much of one's success depends on viewing conditions, which have been highly variable in the past week, some days being completely unsuitable for trying to find and identify birds far out in wavy water with rain and snow obscuring what there is (and interfering with the use of binoculars and spotting scopes). On the better days, the results have been rewarding.
MUTE SWANS have been building up for the winter, with a count of 233, mostly in Presqu'ile Bay, on November 29. TUNDRA SWANS, on the other hand, are never common at Presqu'ile, so a count of 13 (and an additional seven "probables") on November 28 constitutes a large number. A WOOD DUCK was seen from the causeway leading to the Park on December 2. Other dabbling ducks have been vying with a periodic skim of ice over the marsh for the opportunity to continue feeding there. On most days, including today, there has been a male EURASIAN WIGEON there (with a possible second one today), as well as AMERICAN WIGEONS, AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS, MALLARDS, NORTHERN PINTAILS, and GREEN-WINGED TEALS. On November 29 there was also a male NORTHERN SHOVELER. At times when there is too much ice in the marsh, it is worth checking the shoal off Gull Island and the east shore of High Bluff Island, where dabbling ducks tend to gather in early winter. GADWALLS, in particular, are partial to the latter location, where a few dozen were found today.
A surprising five male CANVASBACKS were in Popham Bay on November 29.
The largest concentrations of ducks this week (over a thousand) have been in the outer part of Presqu'ile Bay, towards the lighthouse. Most are REDHEADS, but there are also many GREATER SCAUP and lesser numbers of other common ducks and a few WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS. The latter are also in Popham Bay. There has been no sign of a BARROW'S GOLDENEYE in over a week, but that may change if more birders search for them. A female HOODED MERGANSER was in Popham Bay on November 28. COMMON LOONS were at the lighthouse on November 28 and off the calf pasture (two birds) on the following day. A PIED-BILLED GREBE was off 38 Bayshore Road on December 2.
There was only one sighting of a BALD EAGLE in the past week. Near the lighthouse there was a COOPER'S HAWK on November 26 and a NORTHERN GOSHAWK the next day. A ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was over the beach on November 28. The two WILD TURKEYS that are now a fixture in the Park have begun wandering farther afield, having visited the feeders at 191 Bayshore Road. It can be frustrating looking for AMERICAN COOTS in the marsh off 38 Bayshore Road, knowing that about 90 were visible on one day (November 29) and that they are likely there all along but out of sight in the reeds. The only remaining shorebirds are PURPLE SANDPIPERS and DUNLINS. Five of the former were on Sebastopol Island on November 28. Without wading across to there, they were barely visible from Gull Island with a scope. Today they might well have been still there, but viewing conditions were sub-optimal (to put it mildly). Three DUNLINS were on Gull Island today, as were the first two GLAUCOUS GULLS of the season. Perhaps an ICELAND GULL will soon appear. The only owl reported this week was a GREAT HORNED OWL seen flying near the entrance to Jobes' woods.
At the bird sightings board feeder, a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER has appeared from time to time in recent weeks, including on December 1.
The CAROLINA WREN at the end of Bayshore Road appeared only twice in the past week. About 15 AMERICAN PIPITS were on Gull Island on November 28. Two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS at 83 Bayshore Road appear to have settled in for the winter. On November 28 a COMMON GRACKLE and a RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD were also in that vicinity, and a second one of the latter was at 30 Bayshore Road. The only COMMON REDPOLL of the season was heard flying over on November 28.
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 not using a boat should be prepared to wade through ankle-deep water (deeper when there are waves, which can come up quickly) in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven and slippery. 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. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.