The surprising, perhaps unprecedented, open conditions at Presqu'ile Provincial Park (no snow having fallen yet this season) have not been conducive to easy birding. Some of the "most wanted" target birds require birders to wade to Gull Island under conditions involving heavy wave action and strong currents, while land birds have not yet had to converge on feeders to survive. Nevertheless, birding at either of these sites is more profitable these days than wandering aimlessly through the woods.
As usual at this time of year, swans are gathering in Presqu'ile Bay, including a TRUMPETER SWAN on December 3 and up to ten TUNDRA SWANS in the area off the camp office viewing stand and elsewhere. The majority of GADWALLS are in the channel between Gull and High Bluff Islands, while the few remaining AMERICAN WIGEONS and GREEN-WINGED TEAL are off the camp office viewing stand whenever that area is not frozen over (which has been most of the time so far). A REDHEAD and two RING-NECKED DUCKS were farther east in the bay on December 2. A female eider, likely a KING EIDER since one has been around Presqu'ile for over three weeks, was off Sebastopol Island on December 7. Close to 100 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS can be found by scanning the lake with a scope, while somewhat closer views can usually be had off Salt Point, where a BLACK SCOTER was seen on December 5. Five HOODED MERGANSERS were in Presqu'ile Bay on December 3 and might still be there. Single COMMON LOONS and HORNED GREBES have been seen twice this week, and a RED-NECKED GREBE was near the lighthouse on December 3. Anywhere from one to three DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS have been seen almost every day, either at Salt Point or at the calf pasture.
An immature BALD EAGLE has been seen twice in the past week, most recently on High Bluff Island today. A NORTHERN HARRIER was over the marsh on December 2, and a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was on High Bluff Island for the past two days. It is noteworthy that no NORTHERN GOSHAWKS have been seen in the Park since late October. The flock of about 100 AMERICAN COOTS at the camp office viewing stand appears to be waiting for freeze-up before moving farther out in the bay, where one or more often remain until late in December. The only shorebirds this week were a SANDERLING on Sunday and PURPLE SANDPIPERS on Gull Island: three on Sunday and one today, helping to solidify Presqu'ile's reputation as the "purple capital" of Ontario. There are still a few lingering BONAPARTE'S GULLS. The big attraction for many people appears to be the number of SNOWY OWLS in the Park, part of a nation-wide incursion in recent weeks. Four were seen on the offshore islands on Sunday and hardly a day goes by without at least one being seen, but unfortunately they are difficult to access but can sometimes be seen from the mainland with a scope or even binoculars.
A BELTED KINGFISHER was at the calf pasture on Saturday. Both RED-BELLIED and PILEATED WOODPECKERS are present, and a day's birding in the Park is likely to yield one or both of these species. A NORTHERN SHRIKE has been seen infrequently along Bayshore Road in the past week.
A COMMON RAVEN was near the Park entrance on Tuesday. The CAROLINA WREN at 83 Bayshore Road was calling this morning. Four birders on the marsh boardwalk came across a MARSH WREN and a SWAMP SPARROW on the late date of December 4. SNOW BUNTINGS were seen on the weekend. A late BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD was at 85 Bayshore Road on December 2. Flocks of PINE SISKINS are still in the Park.
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 shin-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. 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.