Despite the relative paucity of birders visiting Presqu'ile Provincial Park recently (except for a dedicated few seeking Purple Sandpipers), there have been some interesting, not to say amazing, finds this week, and the upcoming Christmas Bird Count on Sunday promises to reveal even more. The fall migration is pretty well over except for a few stragglers that will continue to make life interesting.
Surprisingly for this date, there is still enough open water off the camp office viewing stand that TUNDRA SWANS and the odd GADWALL are still there, but the AMERICAN WIGEONS and GREEN-WINGED TEAL have not been seen there for several days. A NORTHERN PINTAIL was seen off Gull Island and just outside the Park gate. Small numbers of REDHEADS have accompanied the GREATER SCAUP flock near the lighthouse on most days. A SURF SCOTER was off Gull Island on Sunday and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS are present in good numbers in various places. A female HOODED MERGANSER has been seen twice in the inner part of Presqu'ile Bay. A RED-THROATED LOON on December 9 and COMMON LOONS on the following two days were on the late side. The most recent HORNED GREBE sighting was at the lighthouse on December 15, and the most recent DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT was on December 10.
A male NORTHERN HARRIER on two consecutive days, a COOPER'S HAWK, two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS twice on High Bluff Island, and MERLINS on two consecutive days were the raptor highlights. Two RUFFED GROUSE were seen today. As recently as December 12 there were still about 70 AMERICAN COOTS in the marsh. The only shorebirds this week were a flock of 15 !! PURPLE SANDPIPERS. On December 13, in a case of being in the right place at the right time, a lucky observer standing at the tip of Owen Point saw them fly past a few metres away and circling around over the lake before disappearing around the corner of Gull Island, where they could not be re-located. Two days later (i.e., this morning in pouring rain) another birder found them on Gull Island. He also found the first ICELAND GULL of the season and one of the two SNOWY OWLS that were there earlier in the week. There were two BARRED OWL sightings this week.
Other owls have also been scarce in the Park, but the concentrated effort on the Christmas Bird Count might produce a LONG-EARED OWL, as it did a few years ago, that notoriously well camouflaged species undoubtedly hiding somewhere at Presqu'ile.
One of the few birds that has not yet migrated is a BELTED KINGFISHER, which was seen twice this week, as was a NORTHERN SHRIKE. The previously reported RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER and CAROLINA WREN continue to be noticed at 83 Bayshore Road. A flock of CEDAR WAXWINGS that was in the Park for over a week was last seen on December 10. The unquestioned and totally unprecedented highlight of the week was a MAGNOLIA WARBLER discovered on December 11. Birders searching for it among dense cedars subsequently have not (yet) been successful, but the continued mild weather offers hope that it will re-appear. There is no later record for Presqu'ile than October 16 for that species. Birders going to Gull Island usually find a flock of SNOW BUNTINGS, most recently about 30 on December 13. A WHITE-THROATED SPARROW is still hanging out at 83 Bayshore Road. A small flock of PINE SISKINS was observed on December 12.
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. Doing so barefoot, as one trio did this week, involves contact with very cold 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 until after December 19. 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.