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Birding Report

Most of the excitement at Presqu'ile Provincial Park this week centres around an endangered species. Other birds, both shorebirds and land birds, as well as waterfowl, have made their usual spring re-fueling stops in the Park before moving on.

Flocks of BRANT have been flying past Presqu'ile on four of the last six days, beginning on May 8. One flock stopped to rest and feed on Gull Island. It is expected that more will be seen in the next week. Two TRUMPETER SWANS spent two days in the marsh before disappearing, perhaps because of repeated harassment by the resident MUTE SWAN. A male RING-NECKED DUCK has been in the marsh for the past two days. LESSER SCAUPS were also present today. A surprisingly large group of COMMON GOLDENEYES (about forty on one day) has been frequenting the waters around Sebastopol Island, at a time when most of their kin have long since departed. On each of the last three days, a lone RED-THROATED LOON has been spotted in Popham Bay. Perhaps because they are so conspicuous, GREAT EGRETS have been the most frequently seen member of the heron family this week. Sightings of the resident and ridiculously tame WILD TURKEY are now so regular that further mention of it in these reports is unlikely, even if, as it did this week, it decides to occupy a bird bath.

The highlight of the week was the discovery, on May 13, of two PIPING PLOVERS, an endangered species, on the beach. It has seemed just a matter of time until that species returned to breed at Presqu'ile, as it did in the early years of the last century. With low lake levels, the beach is wider than usual and the prospect seems bright. With that in mind, the Park has taken steps to protect the birds, as noted in the following message from the park naturalist:

We have closed the entire beach from the beach 3-4 fence line to Beach 1. Beach 4 and Owen Pt have their usual controlled access. If they are a pair and do choose to nest here this will give them the choice of the entire beach to choose from and once they pick a territory we can narrow down the beach closure area. It is my personal opinion that the Presqu'ile beach is normally too wet to appeal to Piping Plovers but this year it is looking much more like the nesting sites I've seen at Wasaga. So maybe.
With this closure we are asking people to stay off the entire beach. You can access the back of the beach from the walkways from the parking lots for a scan but please don't walk along the back beach - go back down the path to the parking lot and walk over to the next path. The plovers were using the back beach area today so even walking along there might disturb them. We are erring on the side of caution here for the sake of the birds.

We do not have the person-power to keep someone out there all the time so would appreciate your cooperation in communicating these parameters to other visitors. Also any observations you make about what part of the beach they are using and any possible courting behaviour would be most welcome.

The band colours courtesy of Doug McRae are:

 Bird 1   Left ? orange over light green,  Right ? metal over light green

 Bird 2  Left ? orange over light green,  Right ? metal over a thin orange band over green

Information on the provenance of these birds will be welcome. Meanwhile, birders hoping to see these birds will need to use patience in scanning the beach from Owen Point Trail Lookout #1, because they blend in well with the flotsam on the beach. Other shorebird numbers have begun to build up, with a single BLACK-BELLIED and three SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS and up to 18 LEAST SANDPIPERS and perhaps 30 DUNLINS on the beach and at Owen Point and on Gull and Sebastopol Islands. A SOLITARY SANDPIPER spent two days in a flooded area near the Park store. By the time of next week's report, the first of the WHIMBRELS may have appeared.

Both yesterday and today, one of the resident BARRED OWLS was vocalizing in broad daylight (3 p.m. and 10 a.m.). Early this morning, a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER stopped briefly at the lighthouse. Later in the morning another (perhaps the same one) was found in Jobes' Woods. RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS, while not as common as in recent years, were seen at the lighthouse and at 83 Bayshore Road. Again this week, a COMMON RAVEN was observed on two occasions. Among the hundreds of swallows that gathered over Presqu'ile Bay on Sunday to try to cope with the cold winds were numerous CLIFF SWALLOWS. On a dark roof facing the morning sun and sheltered from the wind there were 18, and another four sat on a wire nearby, for a record total of 22. The CAROLINA WREN that has been seen a few times at 83 Bayshore Road in recent months appeared again on May 7.

The BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER nest that was being built at the time of last week's report now has an incubating bird on it. The first SWAINSON'S THRUSH of the year was found today. Can GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSHES be far behind? After an atypical absence during the winter, CEDAR WAXWINGS have finally returned. A GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER was found on May 7, a BLACKPOLL WARBLER on May 9, two CAPE MAY WARBLERS on May 11, and a CANADA WARBLER on May 13, proving that the best days to look for interesting warblers at Presqu'ile are the odd-numbered days. A LINCOLN'S SPARROW was near Owen Point on May 11. Four BOBOLINKS were at the calf pasture on May 10. ORCHARD ORIOLES can easily be found. This morning three males were in one tree and a fourth in a neighbouring tree at the lighthouse. They are also patronizing feeders at 83 Bayshore Road. There was an intriguing report of an EVENING GROSBEAK on May 10 but no details were provided.

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. 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.

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Fred Helleiner