Anyone who feels that the spring bird migration is over should visit the beach at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, where he/she would immediately be disabused of that notion. On May 21, a grounding there of shorebirds, a guild for which the park is famous, led to the closure of the shoreline portion of the beach to allow the birds to replenish their fat stores undisturbed prior to continuing their northward migration. Other birds have also provided a few surprises and one puzzling report.
As expected, there were still flocks of Brant moving past Presqu'ile within the past week, and more may yet be coming. A flock of White-winged Scoters also flew past, and one was swimming close to shore in Presqu'ile Bay. Other diving ducks are still present but in considerably reduced numbers. Two or more Red-throated Loons were still present in Popham Bay on May 19. For a bird that is conspicuous and probably unmistakable, an American White Pelican reportedly swimming in the marsh on two consecutive days (May 15/16) is a puzzle, for it was able to elude re-discovery despite a concerted effort around all likely areas of Presqu'ile Bay. A Least Bittern called once alongside the newly re-opened marsh boardwalk. Great Egrets, at one time a rare species in Ontario, are now common at Presqu'ile. A Red-tailed Hawk treated a group of observers on a scheduled "warblers and whimbrels" walk to a close-up display of predation. In contrast, a Peregrine Falcon that circled around Owen Point on May 20 caused only momentary panic among smaller birds. A Sora was heard several times in the marsh behind Owen Point, where a Blue-winged Teal, one of very few sightings in the Park this year, was also seen. Two Sandhill Cranes flew across Presqu'ile Bay on May 15.
Shorebird numbers have shown a steady increase over the past week from a few dozen a week ago to hundreds that lined the beach from one end to the other today, the vast majority of which were Dunlins. Fifteen species have been represented over the past week, not counting the Wilson's Snipe and American Woodcock that have been found away from the beach. A few Black-bellied Plovers several days ago will likely soon be joined by many more. Both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs stopped briefly, as did one of the most-sought-after species, the Whimbrels - four on the rather early date of May 16 and 21 on May 21. The biggest "catch" was a Hudsonian Godwit that stopped briefly on May 16, just long enough to allow one of the most persistent shorebird watchers in the area to see it before it flew off. Among others, there has been a sprinkling of Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, White-rumped Sandpipers, and Short-billed Dowitchers. Within the next week there should be Red Knots on the beach and/or on Gull Island.
Two Bonaparte's Gulls at Owen Point on May 20 were the first in over a month. A Forster's Tern on May 14 and at least one rare Arctic Tern on May 16 were both birds that did not appear to linger in the area. Black Terns, formerly common breeding birds in the marsh, have not been seen here this spring.
Black-billed Cuckoos were seen on three different days since the first one appeared on May 16. Barred Owls have apparently established themselves in Newcastle woods, where one or two have been seen or heard on several recent occasions, including today. Whip-poor-wills were heard in the early morning of May 16 and in the evening on May 19. A Red-headed Woodpecker was at the lighthouse this morning and was re-located later along Paxton Drive. Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Pileated Woodpeckers are being seen regularly.
A good variety of flycatchers in the Park this week included four Olive-sided Flycatchers, the earliest being on May 15 . Yellow-throated Vireos were seen on May 15 and 16. A couple of calls heard at the lighthouse on May 16 were identified as coming from a Carolina Wren, a species that had apparently been absent from Presqu'ile for over a year. The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher nest near the lighthouse continues to attract attention from passing birders. An Eastern Bluebird at the lighthouse on May 16 was unexpected. On May 19 the only Gray-cheeked Thrush of the season was found. A Northern Mockingbird, perhaps the same one seen a day earlier on Bayshore Road, was at the calf pasture on May 15. Two American Pipits were at Owen Point on May 15. The diversity of warblers at Presqu'ile this week has satisfied all but the most jaded birders. The first Blackpoll Warbler and Mourning Warbler found were on May 16, a rather early date. There were sightings of both Clay-colored Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco on May 16. Orchard Orioles frequenting the east end of the Park are undoubtedly going to be nesting here again. Although it may be getting tedious to mention, there are still Pine Siskins visiting feeders.
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.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.