The intermittent howling westerly gales of the past week appear to have brought littleout of the ordinary to Presqu'ile. Nevertheless, good birding was to be had for most of the week. When the sun made one of its infrequent appearances, songbirds, though with a declining species count,appeared as though poured from a tap. Shorebirds persisted in good numbers and appeared oblivious to the weather.
Surviving puddle ducks have begun to frequent the ordinance-free areas off Presqu'ile's sand beach. Among this group, the number of Green-winged Teal has risen to exceed 100 birds. More Greater Scaup have been flying through the Owen Point/Gull Island corridor and groups are beginning to set up far out in Popham Bay. Six Pied-billed Grebes were spottedinthe Calf Pasture lagoon on October 6.
On the afternoon of October 3, a Turkey Vulture was seen over the Calf Pasture. Throughout the week a Northern Harrier worked the marsh off the new boardwalk and might be the same bird that commuted several times to High Bluff Island. On October 8, two Red-tailed Hawks soared over the aforementioned island. Merlin's were seen every day wherever there were shorebirds.
On the morning of October 6, two Peregrine Falcons of the tundrius subspecies flew from Gull Island towards Owen Point. One of the falcons reversed its field, then landed at the end of the Owen Point gravel bar. Here it bathed with animated abandon until buzzed by a passing Northern Harrier. The other, and larger, peregrine stooped several times directly over Owen Point in pursuit of a rather large bird. The ultimate prey turned out to be the racing/homing pigeon referred to in this space last week.
Eleven species of shorebirds were reported during the week. Most were seen on Gull Island on days when it was accessible, although occasional groups moved for a foraging mission to the sand beach. Black-bellied Plover numbers were down with only two reported from the beach 3 area on October 6.
Semipalmated Plovers were most likely to be seen on the beach and remained one of the more numerous shorebirds. One Greater Yellowlegs flew over Gull Island on October 8 and Sanderlings, peaking on the 6th at over 100 birds, continued to be the most abundant shorebird species. A handful of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers remained and, on October 6, the first juvenile White-rumped Sandpipers appeared. One adult accompanied the group of seven juveniles. Dunlin continued to be the second-most abundant shorebird.
Only one Bonaparte's Gull was reported during the week and a Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen on Sebastopol Island on October 8. Great Black-backed Gullscan beseen in small numbers on every outing to the beach and fortunately, so far, haven't experienced a die-off.
The presence of a late Black-billed Cuckoo in a willow behind 83 Bayshore on October 6 was given away by scolding songbirds. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers continue to be seen and were particularly noticeable among mixed flocks on October 3 and 6. Over 20 Eastern Phoebes were spotted in a flock near the Owen Point mini-marsh on October 6.
Both Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos were seen at the Lighthouse on October 3 and the latter was encountered, occasionally singing, whenever mixed flocks appeared through the week. On October 8, a single Common Raven flew from Owen Point towards High Bluff Island. Five Horned Larks, probably of the northern alpestris group, were seen on Gull Island on October 6 and seven were seen there on the 7th.
White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were regular components of mixed flocks during theweek. Golden-crowned Kinglets could occasionally be found in wooded areas with groups of Black-capped Chickadees. A single Gray-cheeked and six Hermit Thrushes were seen near the Calf Pasture boat launch on October 6. Several dozen American Robins foraged at their usual spot near Atkins Lane and Paxton Drive. Gray Catbirds could still be heard about the Lighthouse and the Calf Pasture on October 3 and 4.
At least a dozen warbler species were seen during fair weather spells throughout the week. Orange-crowned Warblerscould be foundin low vegetation at the Lighthouse and Calf Pasture on October 3. Northern Parulas were spotted on October 3 and 6 and the week's best warbler sighting, a Prairie Warbler, was seen on the first part of Lighthouse Lane on the 6th. Blackpoll Warblers were still being seen as of October 3.
Sparrow sightings continued to be pedestrian. A Lapland Longspur was seen on Gull Island onOctober 6 and White-crowned Sparrows were seen there on the 6th and 8th. Groups of American Goldfinches moved about the park all week.
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 prepared to wade through knee-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven and slippery.
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 until December 20.
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.
Reporting for Fred Helleiner