Those birders who stubbornly deny astronomical and meteorological reality and claim to be compiling a "winter” bird list have been flocking to Presqu'ile Provincial Park since December 1 and have had moderate success in their misguided efforts. The decidedly un-winter-like weather conditions have made for pleasant outings to Gull Island, which is normally brutally cold by this date as well as being normally inaccessible to anyone not willing to wade there, and a few unexpectedly late birds have been found there this week. Elsewhere in the Park, the open conditions have kept birds widely dispersed.
Two TRUMPETER SWANS were off Gull Island today, and at least two TUNDRA SWANS have been in Presqu'ile Bay on at least three days. The only dabbling ducks still present this week are a few GADWALLS, numerous AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS and MALLARDS, and two GREEN-WINGED TEAL on December 4. The most interesting diving duck is the male BARROW'S GOLDENEYE off the lighthouse, which has been seen on five of the last six days, including today. Single PIED-BILLED and HORNED GREBES were seen on December 3 and 2, respectively.
A NORTHERN HARRIER and a COOPER'S HAWK were flushed from their hiding places on Gull Island. Some AMERICAN COOTS were out in Presqu'ile Bay on December 3. Shorebirds are usually scarce in December, and made themselves totally scarce today, but earlier in the week provided pleasant surprises: a SANDERLING on December 2 and 4; a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER that established the first December record for Presqu'ile on December 2 and then eclipsed that record by re-appearing on December 4; single PURPLE SANDPIPERS (perhaps to be joined by others before the month is out) on December 2 and 4; and a single DUNLIN on December 2. BONAPARTE'S GULLS are still present here and there. SNOWY OWLS have been consistently seen on the offshore islands (three on Sunday and another three on Monday, seen from lookout 1 on the Owen Point trail), and another was on Salt Point yesterday. A BARRED OWL was being mobbed by chickadees at the Park maintenance yard. RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS were seen at 32 and 83 Bayshore Road. A MERLIN seen at close range by two observers on the west end of Gull Island on Tuesday was only the third December record for Presqu'ile. On the same day, a PEREGRINE FALCON was also reported there.
Single COMMON RAVENS were seen near the Park entrance on December 3 and near the lighthouse on December 6. A HORNED LARK was on Gull Island today. BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS were seen in at least two flocks. A report of two CHIPPING SPARROWS at 83 Bayshore Road on December 1 was unusual, but the only sparrows there and at 85 Bayshore Road today were a FOX SPARROW (the first December record at Presqu'ile) and a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (one of two that are known to be lingering in the Park). A SONG SPARROW was on Gull Island on Tuesday. Two LAPLAND LONGSPURS were among the many SNOW BUNTINGS that have been on Gull Island for several weeks. After staying for seven days, the two COMMON GRACKLES at 186 Bayshore Road appear to have left after December 3. Small flocks (up to 14 birds) of PINE GROSBEAKS have been seen this week. One PURPLE FINCH and one PINE SISKIN paid visits to feeders. COMMON REDPOLLS have been seen every day this week, both at feeders and elsewhere.
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 able to walk across the gap without special footwear unless a wind change creates a gap of shallow water. 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.