Presqu'ile Provincial Park has hosted more than its share of rare birds in the past week, but for many visitors the variety of colourful songbirds has been the main attraction, and will probably be the drawing card for the Warblers and Whimbrels event taking place this coming weekend. A bird banding demonstration will also take place.
Although eight BRANT were off Gull Island on May 13, the expected large migration of that species has not yet materialized, or at least not detected. Two NORTHERN PINTAILS were also there on that day. On May 15, the first HARLEQUIN DUCK in many months at Presqu'ile, a male, was spotted diving together with a female COMMON GOLDENEYE, to which it was apparently mated. Hundreds of LONG-TAILED DUCKS have gathered in the offshore waters this week, awaiting the anticipated thaw in their Arctic breeding ground. Some were already seen migrating overhead at dusk.
Both HORNED and RED-NECKED GREBES were seen on the rather late date of May 13. A LEAST BITTERN was seen flying at the south end of the marsh boardwalk, where a family of them was raised last year. GREAT EGRETS are common at Presqu'ile but worth noting because many visitors look forward to seeing them. A GREEN HERON sat in several trees near the lighthouse one morning. A PEREGRINE FALCON was seen on May 15.
For the past three days, a colour-banded PIPING PLOVER has been seen repeatedly on the beach. For the past three years, sightings of that endangered species have become almost predictable at Presqu'ile.
Singles of both GREATER and LESSER YELLOWLEGS have been on the beach in the past week. The much anticipated arrival of WHIMBRELS, a species featured in the title of the forthcoming weekend, occurred on May 16, when two rather early individuals rested briefly on the beach, along with the first six RUDDY TURNSTONES. Other recent shorebird sightings include SANDERLINGS, SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS, an early WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER on May 15 and 16, and a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER on May 13.
ARCTIC TERNS migrate through Ontario almost exclusively along the Ottawa River, but the four records from the Park have all occurred in late May and early June. Identifying them is a challenge, however, for anyone unfamiliar with both that species and the COMMON TERNS, which nest at Presqu'ile.
The first BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO of the season was found on May 15.
Several observers had the pleasure of watching a BARRED OWL vociferously making its presence known deep in a hemlock tree beside the road.
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS are appearing in places which suggest that they are not among the resident population. OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS appeared in different parts of the Park on May 12 and 13, both unusually early dates. An ALDER FLYCATCHER was identified on May 13. Single YELLOW-THROATED VIREOS were observed on May 12 and 17, and PHILADELPHIA VIREOS on May 13. Several BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS were seen. A NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD was singing in a treetop on May 12. CEDAR WAXWINGS, generally a late migrant, have been seen on at least five of the last seven days.
The warbler migration continues in full swing and might satisfy those who come to see them this weekend. BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS were seen on May 12 and 13. Except for the rarer species which turn up only occasionally at Presqu'ile, all of the others have now put in an appearance, including traditionally late-arriving ones such as BAY-BREASTED, BLACKPOLL, MOURNING, WILSON'S, and CANADA WARBLERS. A surprise was the singing male HOODED WARBLER which gave several birders wonderful looks around the lighthouse area on May 14. Last but by no means least was the rarest bird of the week, a male BLUE GROSBEAK which was seen and photographed at the calf pasture on May 11, only the second one ever seen at Presqu'ile, the previous one being in 1970.
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. Access to the offshore islands is restricted at this time of year to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there. 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.