What a week this has been for birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park! Well over 100 species were seen on just one day (Sunday), and the number of rarities reported comes close to requiring two hands to count. In part, this plethora of sightings can be attributed to the fact that birders were almost as abundant as birds. Four organized groups were scouring the Park on Sunday, and expert birders were out and about on almost every day of the week.
There are still questions being raised about the swan with a black bill that remains off Gull and Sebastopol Islands, but a consensus seems to be emerging that it is a TUNDRA SWAN. In other parts of Popham Bay and the nearby shores, there are increasingly frequent sightings of AMERICAN WIGEONS, NORTHERN SHOVELERS, a NORTHERN PINTAIL, and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, as well as the more common ducks. The only WILD TURKEYS of the week were seen on Friday and Sunday. With powerful scopes, some birders have spotted up to 35 HORNED GREBES far out in Popham Bay. A CHIMNEY SWIFT was seen on Sunday. One of the rarities referred to above was a KING RAIL that was heard in the Presqu’ile Bay wetland complex this week, but the exact location is being withheld to ensure this endangered species is not bothered.
Shorebirds continue to be one of the main attractions, and now that there is access to Gull Island they are being located there as well as on the beach. As expected in September, increasing numbers of AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS are among them. Both yesterday and today a MARBLED GODWIT was on Gull Island, perhaps the same godwit that had been seen in silhouette earlier in the week on High Bluff Island or the one that was on the beach three weeks earlier. A RED KNOT was on the beach on Friday and one was on Gull Island this morning. Both BAIRD'S SANDPIPER and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER continue to frequent the beach in small numbers. A BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER was on the beach yesterday morning and it or another was on Gull Island later in the morning and today. A count of 13 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS on the beach this morning was the highest this season. A SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was on Gull Island yesterday. Rounding out the more unusual shorebirds was another rarity, a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE that was on Gull Island on Monday but has not been seen since.
A rather late COMMON TERN was near the lighthouse on Sunday, and another or the same one was off Gull Island on Tuesday. A late LEAST BITTERN was in the marsh on Sunday. While many people saw GREAT EGRETS during the summer from a great distance on High Bluff Island where they nest, they can now be likely found much closer at the calf pasture, where 12 were roosting on the evening of September 8. A GREEN HERON on Sunday and two BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS on Tuesday were also of note. Both OSPREY and BALD EAGLE were seen on Saturday and one of the latter on Sunday.
On Sunday an immature RED-HEADED WOODPECKER was flying around the lighthouse before retreating to Newcastle woods, where a family group had been seen two weeks earlier. Three falcon species were found this week: AMERICAN KESTREL, MERLIN, PEREGRINE FALCON. While a good many flycatchers were present this week, including OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER and YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, they would all be overshadowed if a WESTERN KINGBIRD like the one that showed up on September 15, 1985 were to return (or even the LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE that appeared on that date last year). Four vireo species were in the Park this week: BLUE-HEADED, WARBLING, PHILADELPHIA, RED-EYED. A COMMON RAVEN was seen on Saturday and Sunday. Rather late BARN SWALLOWS were seen on Tuesday (2) and Thursday. A BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER was seen on Sunday. Several SWAINSON'S THRUSHES and a HERMIT THRUSH were also found. AMERICAN PIPITS are showing up in increasing numbers. Warblers are present in good numbers and variety, though variable from day to day. There were two GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER sightings and one each of ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and PINE WARBLER. One of the highlights of the week is a female YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD that was discovered on Gull Island on Monday and has been seen every day since then.
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. Birders not using a boat to access Gull Island will find the water even under calm conditions too deep even for hip waders (about one metre at the deepest point). 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.