"Exceptionally warm and pleasant weather at Presqu'ile Provincial Park has slowed the bird migration but has provided many birders the opportunity to enjoy studying birds at their leisure, especially on Gull Island." Those words, written here almost exactly a year ago, bear repeating today. Compared to last week, and compared to what one might expect in mid-September, birding has seemed somewhat lacklustre, but not lacking in some elements of excitement.
Birders seeking a challenge have made a point of adding their contributions to the ongoing debate about the identity of the TUNDRA/TRUMPETER SWAN that continues to linger on and around Sebastopol Island. The largest concentration of ducks, both dabbling ducks and diving ducks, has been in the vicinity of Gull and Sebastopol Islands. Exceptional because of their numbers were 11 or12 NORTHERN SHOVELERS and 35 GREEN-WINGED TEAL on Tuesday. Matching or exceeding last year's record count of 20 WILD TURKEYS was a flock of 20-24, perhaps as many as 30, crossing the road near the calf pasture on Sunday. A banded and very tame ROCK PIGEON has been on Gull Island. Even more unusual in that location was a VIRGINIA RAIL. Two AMERICAN COOTS on Saturday may be the first of the season.
While shorebird numbers are far from what they were in recent weeks, the mix of species has changed. AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS, as many as five, are found on Gull Island almost every day. An elusive WHIMBREL was spotted on at least two different days. The MARBLED GODWIT that was first encountered on Gull Island on September 13 was seen regularly until September 19. Five RUDDY TURNSTONES were there on Sunday and three were there yesterday. By now SANDERLINGS comprise the vast majority of shorebirds. There have also been, inter alia, a few DUNLINS, BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS, and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS, as well as a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER as recently as yesterday. SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was on Gull Island on Friday and Tuesday. A few SPOTTED SANDPIPERS are still around, as well as both GREATER and LESSER YELLOWLEGS. One of the few PARASITIC JAEGER sightings in recent years was on September 22 six years ago. Someone reported a COMMON TERN on September 18, which is a rather late date. Seven BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS were seen one evening.
Double-digit TURKEY VULTURES have been scavenging on the islands and drifting off to the west. On September 19 there was an early NORTHERN GOSHAWK. A BALD EAGLE and a NORTHERN HARRIER were also seen. Persistence paid off when night-time birding yielded a BARRED OWL and two GREAT HORNED OWLS. One or two PEREGRINE FALCONS are being seen regularly along the shores, scattering the shorebirds and gulls.
A very late EASTERN KINGBIRD was at the calf pasture on September 17 and 18, and another or the same one was seen at 83 Bayshore Road on the 16th and another was seen at the lighthouse on September 17. Three PHILADELPHIA VIREOS were sighted in the past week. For the first time this fall, BLUE JAYS were migrating past the lighthouse in small numbers this morning. A very late date for a BANK SWALLOW, though not the latest ever, was established on September 19. A HOUSE WREN was also seen on that date. A good variety of warblers has been present all week. Perhaps the only surprise was that a PINE WARBLER was singing yesterday, when all of the others ceased doing so long ago. Although a SAVANNAH SPARROW was on Gull Island on Sunday and a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW was seen yesterday, the big influx of sparrows will likely occur when the current heat wave ends. A BOBOLINK flew over 83 Bayshore Road on Tuesday. Not to be forgotten is the YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD that pleased many birders between September 11 and 17.
I have been informed indirectly that a CONNECTICUT WARBLER was photographed at the lighthouse on the weekend, but there is no report of the sighting in the usual places, apparently including e-bird. If the observers/photographers would like to forward the photograph to me, I can forward it to the Park Naturalist for the record.
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 water that is almost a metre deep, not taking into account any wave action,.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 after tomorrow. 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.