With the typically slow birding month of February behind us, the month of March is usually an exciting time at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, with thousands of migrating birds returning and the Waterfowl Viewing Weekend attracting hundreds of birders and other interested visitors. Not so this year, at least not yet. Presqu’ile Bay is frozen solid, and ducks are having trouble finding patches of open water away from the lake. Of course this can all change before the March 15/16 weekend, when, despite the Ides of March, there could be a successful Waterfowl Viewing Weekend. A wind change can free up all the ice within hours, as it began to do last weekend. Even this past week, all has not been grounds for pessimism, with a couple of surprises showing up.
One of the most unusual situations is the almost total absence of MUTE SWANS. Normally there are hundreds around in February and still dozens in March after the majority have dispersed to newly ice-free inland waters. This past week, only two single swans were seen, and one was a TRUMPETER SWAN. Two AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS last Saturday were a sign of more dabblers to come, and none too soon. During the recent re-freezing of Presqu’ile Bay, CANVASBACKS were among the few ducks to have held their own (by concentrating in limited patches of open water). Whereas there were between 30 and 40 through most of last week, numbers this week have fluctuated between 30 and 80, with 53 yesterday and 38 today. In contrast, REDHEADS, normally here in the hundreds if not thousands by this date, have dwindled from a peak of about 700 two weeks ago. In the last seven days, the numbers have been 500, 400, 100, 18, 0, 0, 0. Surely a resurgence is imminent. The male RING-NECKED DUCK at Salt Point was still there yesterday, but the water there is totally frozen today. There are still a few WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS present. Two BALD EAGLES sat on the ice on Monday. A SNOWY OWL has been regularly seen on the ice of Presqu’ile Bay, and a second bird was at Gull Island this morning.
The only two RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER sightings in the past week were along Bayshore Road near Langton Street. A species that is notoriously susceptible to die-off during severe winters is not one that would be expected here this winter. Yet surprisingly a CAROLINA WREN showed up on March 1 at a feeder at 40 Bayshore Road and has remained there off and on since then. Has that bird somehow survived undetected at Presqu’ile all winter, or was it blown in on the south winds of the weekend? Either scenario seems unlikely. Along with that bird is a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, and the over-wintering SONG SPARROW at 186 Bayshore Road continues to patronize the bird feeders there.
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 from March 10 onward to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there.
On a visit to gull island this morning, the only colonial bird seen was a lone gull that flew past high overhead!
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.