At this time of year, the greatest potential for finding interesting birds at Presqu'ile Provincial Park is for birds of the water and shoreline. Both of those habitats have yielded good results in the past week, but only a few land birds have made the list of "good finds”.
The marsh has frozen over several times recently, but the ducks have simply moved temporarily to the nearby open water. Two TUNDRA SWANS were there on November 25, and two WOOD DUCKS today. GADWALLS, AMERICAN WIGEONS, NORTHERN PINTAILS, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL have been among the more numerous AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS and MALLARDS. Hundreds of REDHEADS and GREATER SCAUP comprise the majority of the offshore ducks, but WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS are also there in good numbers. At least one BLACK SCOTER has been in Popham Bay. The male BARROW'S GOLDENEYE that appeared last Thursday remained for three more days but has not been seen since Sunday. Last year, another of that species stayed for two days at precisely the same time and place before disappearing. It or another re-appeared late in December. On four of the last seven days, a RED-THROATED LOON has graced the outer part of Presqu'ile Bay near the lighthouse and may still be around. Both PIED-BILLED and HORNED GREBES were still present in the past week. No GREAT BLUE HERONS have been observed since November 23. Another BALD EAGLE sighting occurred on November 25. Also on that day, a WILD TURKEY strutted across the lawn of 187 Bayshore Road.
The marsh along the causeway leading into the Park has been largely frozen over since last weekend, but prior to that there were still AMERICAN COOTS, KILLDEER, and WILSON'S SNIPE. Three shorebird species have been on Gull "Island” this week: two WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS on Tuesday and today, falling short by one day of tying the record late date; a PURPLE SANDPIPER on Sunday and two on Tuesday (but none today); up to five DUNLINS on the south-east corner of the erstwhile island. BONAPARTE'S GULLS have been increasing in number over the past week.
SNOWY OWLS have been very reliable on the offshore islands. Four were seen on Sunday and three on Tuesday and today. One of today's birds was on the gravel link between Owen Point and the former island and remained unmoved by the passage of two birders who gave it a wide berth both coming and going. Somewhere in the Park there surely must be a LONG-EARED OWL waiting to be discovered by a birder venturing off the roads and trails.
The only NORTHERN SHRIKE of the past week was over the causeway leading into the Park. Five HORNED LARKS were off Owen Point on Tuesday. A very late YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER was at High Bluff campground on November 27. Four LAPLAND LONGSPURS stopped briefly on Gull Island on November 25. Two COMMON GRACKLES have discovered the feeders at 186 Bayshore Road, where a female PURPLE FINCH lingered until caught by a red fox. A RED CROSSBILL was at the Park maintenance yard yesterday, and four WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS were at Owen Point on Sunday, along with a COMMON REDPOLL. Up to four PINE SISKINS were at a feeder for two 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. Visitors to Gull "Island” not using a boat should be able to walk across the gap without special footwear unless a wind change creates a gap of shallow water. 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.