By Doug McRae
HIGHLIGHTS: TURKEY VULTURE, ICELAND GULL, BROWN THRASHER
Another week of cold and two impressive snowfalls kept the winter vibe going but a few undeniable spring signs shone through. The upcoming “heat wave” on Sunday may well bring in a significant movement of gulls and waterfowl.
The ice in Presqu’ile Bay broke up a little and open water is now inland to the Government Dock and Calf Pasture Pt. The waterfowl situation is pretty much the same as before with maybe a few more REDHEAD and SCAUP in the mix, but we are still waiting for the big influx to arrive. If viewing from the Government Dock on Bayshore Rd, be very careful if you go down the slope to the dock – it is totally ice covered under the snow and could lead to a nasty wipe-out.
A single TURKEY VULTURE in Brighton on 1 Mar and two in the Park on 4 Mar seemed especially early this year. At least two BALD EAGLES were feeding on carcasses in Presqu’ile Bay on and off all week. HERRING and small numbers of RING-BILLED GULLS have been seen roosting on the ice throughout the week. Among them was a high count of 5 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS on 3 Mar. An immature ICELAND GULL was spotted on 1 Mar and a white-winged gull not identified to species on 3 Mar could have been it or another.
BARRED OWLS were seen at several sites throughout the week and a SNOWY OWL was sitting at waters’ edge in the Bay on 5 Mar. On sunny days woodpeckers can be heard drumming in the woods. A male RED-BELLIED WOODEPCKER continues to visit the Camp Office feeder and a female reappeared at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders on 2 Mar. A large falcon flew over Bayshore Rd on 5 Mar but eluded identification.
A NORTHERN SHRIKE was seen at Calf Pasture on 5 Mar. COMMON RAVENS are regular, especially on the ice of Presqu’ile Bay. AMERICAN ROBIN numbers seem lower but small parties are still being seen, especially near Calf Pasture. The overwintering BROWN THRASHER is still going strong. A WHITE-THROATED SPARROW turned up at a Bayshore Rd feeder for the first time in several weeks.
Finally there was a little action in the finch department apart from AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES, which are present in small numbers. HOUSE FINCHES have been quite scarce this winter but two were seen on 3 Mar and one on 5 Mar. A flock of 70 COMMON REDPOLL was near Owen Pt. on 3 Mar and ten visited a Bayshore feeder on 5 Mar. Three PINE SISKIN were also seen on 7 Mar.
I suggest caution around the large “ice volcano” formations that have developed along the south shore. These spectacular formations are especially substantial this year and should be enjoyed for sure. I do not walk out on these for fear they might collapse or calve off, or I might slide off into the water. If that happened and you ended up in the water you would not be able to get back out. Nor can you be seen from shore. I see lots of people taking pictures and exploring the formations from the very edge, which just strikes me a precarious and ill advised.
Directions: Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, just south of the town of Brighton. It can be reached from either Hwy. 401, or Cty. Rd. 2 and is well signed. A Park map can be found in the information tabloid available at the Park gate. Presqu’ile’s two offshore islands – Gull and High Bluff – support a large multi-species colonial bird nesting area and access is not permitted during the breeding season (10 March-10 September).