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Birding Report

The days leading up to this Sunday's Christmas Bird Count at Presqu'ile Provincial Park have been surprisingly productive of interesting birds, especially considering the extreme cold that persisted for three days and froze much of Presqu'ile Bay. Birders were not deterred from getting out every day of the past week.

A high count of 420 MUTE SWANS on December 11 was typical of recent winters. On the same day there were 31 TUNDRA SWANS and 2 TRUMPETER SWANS. A few of the former remained on several subsequent days. A male CANVASBACK was at the lighthouse on December 15. Two HARLEQUIN DUCKS have been seen repeatedly, including today, off the west end of Gull Island, and a third bird of that species was farther out in that area on December 12. A female BLACK SCOTER, perhaps the same one seen farther west in the middle of last week, was near the lighthouse on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and might still be in the area. With the exception of one day when he was out of town, the birder who has been monitoring the male BARROW'S GOLDENEYE from his lakeside window near the lighthouse (without even opening a door!) has seen it every day for the past nine.

Three female HOODED MERGANSERS were in Presqu'ile Bay before being frozen out.

On three of the last four days, BALD EAGLES (at least two different-plumaged birds) have been seen. A ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK today, undoubtedly a migrant passing through, was getting late for that species, but the GOLDEN EAGLE on December 14 was two weeks later than the previous late date (as well as being rare at Presqu'ile). A PEREGRINE FALCON buzzing the ducks and gulls in Presqu'ile Bay on December 11 was also quite late. Like one that was in that area four weeks earlier, this bird was exceptionally dark.

On two different days, a local birder saw five RUFFED GROUSE. Another of that species sat in an ash tree checking out a bird feeder. Three AMERICAN COOTS were still around on December 11, but were likely frozen out after that. PURPLE SANDPIPERS and a DUNLIN were still present today, the first day of the "count period" surrounding the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). BONAPARTE'S GULLS have not been seen since December 12, the same day as two ICELAND GULLS. Although the possibility is remote indeed, birders participating in the CBC live in hope that an IVORY GULL might show up, as it has done on two previous CBC's at Presqu'ile. There have been a few sightings of BARRED OWLS, but no more than in a normal winter.

Though not the only place in the Park, the bird sightings board and the trees surrounding the adjacent parking lot have proven to be the most reliable location for finding a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER this winter. A NORTHERN SHRIKE was at Owen Point today. The CAROLINA WREN at 186 Bayshore Road has made it to the CBC "count period" again, as it (or another) did a few years ago. Twenty-six AMERICAN PIPITS on December 12 was a large number for that late date. As expected, the first BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS showed up this week on December 14, and reached a total of at least five birds near the government dock today. Since December 14, a FOX SPARROW, unusual in winter, has appeared several times at 83 Bayshore Road and has joined the ranks of the CBC "count period" birds.

Two LAPLAND LONGSPURS were in a large flock of SNOW BUNTINGS on December 14. RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS and a COMMON GRACKLE have been visiting the feeders at 83 and 85 Bayshore Road. A WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL was also there for a couple of days. COMMON REDPOLLS have been increasing in numbers in the Park over the past week. As well, a lone HOARY REDPOLL was on Gull Island on two different days.

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. The narrow channel between Owen Point and Gull Island was ice-covered today, but the ice, while appearing to be thick, might not support the weight of a human. However, the water beneath the crust, if there is any, is only ankle-deep. The surrounding shoreline can be very slippery. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Fridays and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on the next two days, after which there are no further restrictions. 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