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Birding Report

The days leading up to the Christmas Bird Count at Presqu'ile Provincial Park looked promising until the sudden freeze-up this week, which has driven many of the water birds out of the area, or at least temporarily out into Lake Ontario. By the same token, the weather has driven new birds to some of the feeders in and around the Park.

Three species of swans were in Presqu'ile Bay this week. The MUTE SWANS now number about 300 and will likely continue to increase in numbers, three TRUMPETER SWANS were with them on December 14, and sixteen TUNDRA SWANS were counted on December 12. The only unusual dabbling duck this week was a drake NORTHERN PINTAIL at Gull Island. From December 12 to 16, there were hundreds of REDHEADS and GREATER SCAUP in Presqu'ile Bay, accompanied on December 14 by three RING-NECKED DUCKS, one of which was seen again two days later. Not a day has gone by in over a week without sightings of WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS. A HOODED MERGANSER in Presqu'ile Bay on December 14 and 16 has apparently moved on. An unhappy looking GREAT BLUE HERON was standing on the shore of Salt Point on December 14.

A NORTHERN HARRIER was cruising around Gull Island on December 15. A fairly good chance of seeing a WILD TURKEY can be had by watching the area around Salt Point and the cottages across the road from there.

While most of the AMERICAN COOTS have been driven out of their haunts since last week, one or two were still around on several days this week, including today. Birders who ventured out to Gull Island on Sunday and Tuesday were rewarded by five PURPLE SANDPIPERS and one or two DUNLINS, as well as the remaining few BONAPARTE'S GULLS. A "white-winged" gull, probably an ICELAND GULL, was there on December 13.
BARRED OWLS continue to be seen almost every day. Perhaps the Christmas Bird Count on Sunday will turn up another species of owl, perhaps a LONG-EARED OWL.

A NORTHERN SHRIKE has been frequenting the area between the calf pasture and 83 Bayshore Road. There were two HORNED LARKS on Gull Island on both Sunday and Tuesday and a surprising nine AMERICAN PIPITS on Tuesday. On several occasions recently, including today, a CAROLINA WREN has been visiting feeders at 83 and 115 Bayshore Road. Pending the results of the Christmas Bird Count, it appears that the number of AMERICAN ROBINS wintering in the Park is down significantly from previous years, no more than two having been seen on a single day in the past week by one observer who is out almost every day. Two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS have taken up residence at 83 and 85 Bayshore Road. The ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK that has been present at the feeder in the group campground parking lot for over a month will be a welcome addition to the long-term record of birds seen on the Presqu'ile Christmas Bird Count if it stays for three more days. It has already been counted in the three-day "count period" leading up to December 20.

The RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS wintering around 83 Bayshore Road were accompanied on December 16 by two RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, the only ones seen at Presqu'ile this fall, as far as I can recall. Two PINE SISKINS were at the same property.

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 should be prepared to wade through knee-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven. Hip waders are essential, even when the water is calm, and may be inadequate when the water is rough. Most recently, the channel was ice-covered, but the ice, while appearing to be thick, does not support the weight of a human. The surrounding shoreline can be very slippery. With hip waders one can walk to Sebastopol Island from Gull Island, but wading to High Bluff Island is not possible. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Sebastopol Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days, at least 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.

Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.

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Fred Helleiner