The variety of birds at Presqu'ile Provincial Park in the past week exceeds anything since last spring and includes some quite unexpected species.
The ducks that have been spotted in Popham Bay have included such as NORTHERN SHOVELER, 16 REDHEADS, GREATER and 2 LESSER SCAUP, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, LONG-TAILED DUCK, BUFFLEHEAD, and COMMON GOLDENEYE, the last six of which are unusual at this early date in the fall. An anonymous report of a RED-THROATED LOON without any details raises suspicions about whether it was correctly identified or perhaps confused with a young DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, of which there are many here at this time of year. OSPREYS and MERLINS are by far the most common raptors in the Park this week, but the report of a BROAD-WINGED HAWK on August 18 and 19 is a very early one. A PEREGRINE FALCON was seen on August 18 and 20.
There is excellent shorebird habitat all along the natural beach, and many can be seen dispersed along that stretch, instead of just at Owen Point, where they were concentrated a week or two ago. This is perhaps partly due to repeated harassment by falcons. A SOLITARY SANDPIPER was seen yesterday, and WHIMBRELS in small numbers off and on throughout the week. The RED KNOT reported last week was seen this afternoon after an apparent absence for the past few days. A spike in the number of BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS (15 today) was unexpected. A single-observer report of a STILT SANDPIPER on August 20 was the only one of the fall to date. A few SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS have been around for much of the week. An AMERICAN WOODCOCK was found on August 21. One of the biggest surprises was two BLACK TERNS on August 17.
A tame banded ROCK PIGEON was around the lighthouse. A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was heard on August 17. For the second time this month there were reports of a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD. One third-hand report mentioned that the bird was photographed, but no further information has reached me. Another definitely questionable report was of a female bird, which is considered identical to another species of hummingbird unless certain specific details of the tail feathers can be determined, usually by examining and measuring it in the hand. As in many other parts of southern Ontario, RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS have become such a regular part of the year-round bird life that they no longer merit mention in these weekly reports unless there are exceptional situations. An OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER on August 19 was likely not the last of the season as the narrow window of time during which they pass through Presqu'ile in autumn persists into early September. Again this week a PHILADELPHIA VIREO was among others of this genus seen this week. Only a few swallows remain. Birders ought not to be too surprised if they turned up a CAROLINA WREN, as this is the time of year when they re-appear after being scarce for a few months. There have been a few BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS in the Park this week. The biggest surprise among the warblers this week was an adult male GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER behind the Park store on August 19. Many other warblers are to be found now, including TENNESSEE, CAPE MAY, and WILSON'S WARBLERS. SCARLET TANAGERS and ORCHARD ORIOLES are also being seen. Unexpectedly, finches have begun to feature among birders' observations in greater variety this week, including numerous PURPLE FINCHES, a PINE SISKIN, and, most surprisingly, two flocks of RED CROSSBILLS yesterday, 5 at the calf pasture and 24 at Owen Point, identified by voice as they flew over.
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. 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.Fred Helleiner