HIGHLIGHTS: BIRDS! CACKLING GOOSE, PIED-BILLED GREBE, KILLDEER, CAROLINA WREN, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, BROWN THRASHER, BOHEMIAN WAXWING
Finally spring has arrived with a flood of waterfowl, huge numbers of gulls on Gull Is., and lots of migrants. Presqu’ile Bay is open to Calf Pasture but the ice is going dark and will likely open further very soon; Popham Bay, off the beach, is still frozen to Gull Is. Conditions should be excellent for this weekend’s Waterfowl Viewing Weekend, hosted by Presqu’ile Park and the Friends of Presqu’ile. Note that the islands are now closed to the public until fall to ensure colonial nesting birds are not harassed.
There has been a huge influx of waterfowl both in terms of overall numbers and species diversity. Two CACKLING GEESE flew over the gate on 14 Mar. They were part of a massive eastward movement of CANADA GEESE on the same day that saw 4000 fly over Owen Pt in one hour on 14 Mar. A lone TRUMPETER SWAN was with dozens of MUTE SWANS on 13 Mar. The first WOOD DUCK report was two on 11 Mar building to 11 by 14 Mar. First dates of various puddle ducks included a GADWALL on 12 Mar, one AMERICAN WIGEON on 11 Mar, a NORTHERN SHOVELER on 10 Mar, 8 NORTHERN PINTAIL on 13 Mar, and a GREEN-WINGED TEAL on 13 Mar. In addition to the first dates, a very high count of 185 MALLARD was reported on 13 Mar.
Diving ducks have ballooned in numbers with REDHEAD and GREATER SCAUP making up 90% of the totals with high counts of 2500 and 3000 respectively on 13 Mar. CANVASBACKS peak count to date was 65 on 13 Mar. A few RING-NECKED DUCKS are mixed in starting on 12 Mar and a single LESSER SCAUP was spotted on 13 Mar. HOODED MERGANSERS have also joined their two more common cousins with the first five seen on 11 Mar.
The first PIED-BILLED GREBE was seen near the Lighthouse on 14 Mar. BALD EAGLES have been seen on the ice on Presqu’ile Bay daily with a peak of 4 (1 ad., 3 imm.) on 12 Mar. A large immature accipiter, probably a GOSHAWK, was seen on 14 Mar. A single RED-TAILED HAWK was on High Bluff Is. on 9 and 14 Mar. The first shorebird – a KILLDEER- flew over Owen Pt. on 14 Mar. RING-BILLED GULLS have returned to their breeding colony on Gull Is. en mass with an estimated 10,000 there on 14 Mar. The only unusual gulls were single ICELAND GULLS on 11 and 13 Mar. BARRED OWLS continue to be seen at various locations in the park. A NORTHERN SHRIKE was spotted in the Calf Pasture field on 13 Mar.
COMMON RAVENS are now a “normal” thing to see. Three together at Owen Pt. and a single elsewhere on 14 Mar was the high count. Two BROWN CREEPERS at the base of Owen Pt. on 14 Mar may have been migrants; others have been heard singing from traditional wintering sites. A CAROLINA WREN was a one-day wonder along Bayshore Rd on 8 Mar. Seven EASTERN BLUEBIRDS flew over the gate area on 10 Mar. AMERICAN ROBINS arrived in numbers this week, and the long-staying BROWN THRASHER continues at a Bayshore Rd feeder. EUROPEAN STARLINGS arrived in numbers as well with a high count of 1800 near dusk on 14 Mar. A flock of 70 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS – the first locally this winter - touched down briefly near the foot of Huff Rd. (just NW of the gate) on 10 Mar.
A SONG SPARROW singing by the gate on 14 Mar was the only new sparrow. RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS arrived en mass with hundreds by week’s end. The first BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD was seen on 13 Mar and COMMON GRACKLE on 11 Mar. HOUSE FINCHES are more conspicuous now and a small party of up to 20 COMMON REDPOLLS has been noted at Bayshore Rd. feeders.
I would like to 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).