Things have mostly settled into a pattern with the exception of waterfowl, whose numbers fluctuate almost continuously. Land birds seem especially thin on the ground. That said there were some nice finds here and there.
The expected overwintering waterfowl seem to be present in lower numbers than usual, and are almost absent from large areas where they are normally numerous, especially the stretch from Salt Pt. to the Lighthouse and Popham Bay. Two boats were observed flushing the big diving duck flock on 3 Jan, and there is occasional hunting on Salt Pt. and Salt Pt. Light that usually clears out birds while it is going on, but there may be more to this at play. Sunday’s Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey may shed a clearer picture if weather conditions permit.
MUTE SWANS are mysteriously scarce in Presqu’ile Bay this winter with only dozens present instead of hundreds. This may in part be due to many other areas of open water nearby rather than a population decline. The first MALLARD in weeks was a female on 3 Jan. There has been a substantial flock of diving ducks, mostly off the Calf Pasture all week. REDHEAD is the most common with GREATER SCAUP being second. High counts for the two are 1000 on 5 Jan and 500 on 4 Jan respectively. A lone CANVASBACK was seen on 7 Jan and a LESSER SCAUP was picked out of the flock on 3 Jan. A HARLEQUIN DUCK was reported to park staff as seen at Owen Pt. on 7 Jan but has not been seen again so keep an eye out. WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS were seen several times with a high of 9 on 7 Jan. A few COMMON and RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS were reported through the week. The RUDDY DUCK first seen on 2 Jan was seen again at the Government Dock on 3 Jan but has not been seen since.
No BALD EAGLES were reported this week from the Park but several were in the Brighton area. COOPER’S HAWKS were reported on 6 Jan and 9 Jan and a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK was seen on 5 Jan. A RED-TAILED HAWK on 5 Jan was the only buteo reported. The long-running PURPLE SANDPIPER/DUNLIN show continued with the DUNLIN and three PURPLE SANDPIPERS being seen by many on 3 Jan on Gull Is. (scoped from Owen Pt.) but not the next day or on 5 Jan when a search of Gull Is. was done. However the DUNLIN was seen alone on Owen Pt. on 6 Jan and 8 Jan and, although outside of this reporting period, the DUNLIN and a single PURPLE were seen at Owen Pt. on 10 Jan so it is worth checking. These birds are likely moving around between several sites such as the rock shelves on the west side of High Bluff Is. that are not visible from shore.
SNOWY OWLS were reported from the islands and Presqu’ile Bay through the period with likely two to three birds involved. MERLINS were seen on several days from all over the park suggesting more than one bird is involved. BLUE JAYS are one of the few birds in the forest that seem to be in reasonable numbers but a high count of 45, mostly at one feeder, on 6 Jan was impressive. The WINTER WREN that has been seen on and off for weeks near the lighthouse was detected again on 7 Jan. BROWN CREEPERS and GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS are present in small numbers throughout the park this year.
The only EUROPEAN STARLINGS that are consistently around are on High Bluff Island where eight were seen on 3 Jan. Three more were seen on a duck blind on Gull Is. on 5 Jan one of only two passerines found during a search of the island, the other being a single AMERICAN TREE SPARROW. A WHITE-THROATED SPARROW continues to visit a Bayshore Rd feeder but more unusual was another seen on Owen Pt. on 3 Jan. The only blackbirds reported this week were BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS with a flock of eight at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeder on 3 Jan and a single at a Bayshore Rd feeder on 5 Jan.
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).