Presqu’ile Bird Report for the Week of 18-24 May 2018
By Doug McRae
Highlights: BRANT, CATTLE EGRET, WHITE-FACED IBIS, SANDHILL CRANE, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, SNOWY OWL, YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER.
It has been another great week of birding at Presqu’ile featuring some outstanding rarities, big movements of warblers and other songbirds, plus the start of the main northward push of shorebirds.
BRANT put on a spectacular show on 22 May when 1100 were seen flying around the beach, first going west then returning and heading east via Presqu’ile Bay. Four the next day and one today was all that remains. Four TRUMPETER SWANS flew past the Lighthouse on 21 May. A lingering AMERICAN WIGEON was seen swimming near Gull Is. on 24 May, and two BLUE-WINGED TEAL were at the Owen Pt. pond on 23 May. A pair of REDHEAD was seen off the Fingers on 22 May and a male was off Gull Is. today. A lingering male LESSER SCAUP was off the Fingers on 22 May as well. 14 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS were flying near Gull Is. today and at least 325 LONG-TAILED DUCK were there as well but far offshore and only visible in calm conditions. Lingering BUFFLEHEADS included a female at the Lighthouse and a male off Beach 2 on 21 May, and a male COMMON GOLDENEYE was around Gull Is. on 20 May. Two male COMMON MERGANSERS flew over the beach this morning and a female HOODED MERGANSER was seen at the causeway on 19 May.
All the regularly occurring herons were seen this week including multiple sightings of LEAST BITTERN. A terrific find was a CATTLE EGRET in spanking breeding plumage seen with cattle on Huff Road, just north west of the park, on 23 May. On the same day, park staff working on High Bluff Island observed and photographed two WHITE-FACED IBIS that were feeding in the marshy pond there. They were not seen today but may be elsewhere in the area so keep looking. A BROAD-WINGED HAWK was noted on 20 May, which is unusual within the Park at this time of year. A SANDHILL CRANE flew over the causeway on 22 May.
Shorebirds have begun the mass flight north this week but will likely peak next week, depending on the weather. Fifteen species were found with most being seen scattered along the beach or roosting on Gull Is. Up to 100 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS were on the beach during strong NW winds on 23 May. WHIMBREL were first seen on 21 May when a group of 6 and another of 30 were spotted. More were seen on 23 May with groups of 12, 11, 21 and 25 seen, some of which touched down on the beach to rest and were enjoyed by many. A single RUDDY TURNSTONE was seen on the 23rd followed by five more on Gull Is. today. Mixed in with a Dunlin flock of Gull Is. this morning was the first RED KNOT of spring, as well as two SANDERLING. The first two WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS were on the beach this morning. A group of 10 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was found on 21 May, with a single one the next day. The only unusual gull was a second summer LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL seen near the island and the beach from 21-23 May.
BLACK-BILLED CUCKOOS were seen at several places throughout the week. A GREAT HORNED OWL was heard on 20 May. SNOWY OWLS continue to be seen on record late dates with one seen near the Park Store on 21 May and presumably the same bird spent most of the next day on Owen Pt. Two more have been seen a little further east along the shore of Weller’s Bay. A fledged young BARRED OWL was seen in the Newcastle Woods on 20 May. A dead BELTED KINGFISHER was found at the entrance of a fox den on 21 May making one wonder if it was dug out of a nesting burrow. A PEREGRINE FALCON was seen over the causeway on 20 May, and it or another was reported the next day. Flycatchers really arrived in numbers this week. Notable were single OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS on 21 May and 23 May, and a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER on 20 May. Territorial WILLOW FLYCATCHERS can now be heard all along the Owen Pt. trail. All expected vireos were seen this week including a YELLOW-THROATED VIREO on 22 May. Migrating BLUE JAYS were seen flying east off the lighthouse with 30 on 20 May and 55 on 23 May.
The first GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH was reported on 20 May and another was noted today. A WOOD THRUSH was seen building a nest at least 7m up in a hemlock on 20 May – unusually high for this species. CEDAR WAXWINGS have been notably scarce for months but really picked up this week with small flocks observed in many areas.
Warblers put on a great show with at least 25 species seen. The highlight was a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER on 21 May – one of the few park records - that was seen briefly along Paxton Dr. before it flew off. A GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER was seen at Owen Pt. on 20 May. The typically later arriving species – MOURNING, WILSON’S, BAY-BREAST and BLACKPOLL warbler were all noted this week as well. An EASTERN MEADOWLARK singing from trees near the gate seemed out of place, and is presumably a late migrant.
Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, just south of the town of Brighton. It can be reached from either Hwy. 401 or Cty. Rd. 2 and is well signed. A Park map can be found in the information tabloid available at the Park gate. Presqu’ile’s two offshore islands – Gull and High Bluff – support a large multi-species colonial bird nesting area and access is not permitted during the breeding season.