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Birding Report

Presqu’ile Bird Report for Week of 11-17 May 201

By Doug McRae

Uber Highlights: BLUE GROSBEAK, EURASIAN TREE SPARROW

Other Highlights: RED-THROATED LOON, SANDHILL CRANE, LITTLE GULL, SNOWY OWL, RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, HORNED LARK, GOLDEN AND BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER

It was a great week of birding at Presqu’ile as migration was in full swing with an especially stellar “fall-out” on 15 May, a good selection of scarce birds, and two outstanding rarities.

Migrant/wintering waterfowl have largely left now but a scan of Presqu’ile Bay in calm conditions on 17 May revealed seven GREATER and 12 LESSER SCAUP, five REDHEAD, and two BUFFLEHEAD still hanging on.  At dusk on the same day a flock of 31 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS were heading west over the gate. About 200 LONG-TAILED DUCKS can still be seen off the Lighthouse.

RED-THROATED LOONS have been seen off Beach 1 most of the week with a high of six on 12 May.  Up to 55 GREAT EGRETS could be scoped on High Bluff Island from Beach 1 on 12 May. Single SANDHILL CRANES were seen on 11 and 12 May.

Shorebirds can be found spread along the entire beach. LEAST SANDPIPER has been the most numerous but others include BLACK-BELLIED AND SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, DUNLIN as well as the regular breeding species.  Eight SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS on 14 May were the first of the year.  The next two weeks are peak time for Arctic bound shorebirds, which can occur in very large numbers when grounded by adverse weather conditions. A first-summer LITTLE GULL on 16 May was a good find, especially given how scarce BONAPARTE’S GULLS have been.

A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO found on 14 May was a bit early; conversely a SNOWY OWL on 11 May was extremely late.  BARRED OWLS continue to be seen in the Newcastle Woods.  Woodpeckers have been conspicuous with all regularly occurring species being seen. RED-HEADED WOODPECKER has been seen almost daily near the Lighthouse and today a pair was watched at an occupied Downy Woodpecker nest, possibly trying to usurp the Downy’s, who were franticly mobbing the Red-headed.

At least two YELLOW-THROATED VIREOS were seen on 14 and 15 May and the first PHILADELPHIA VIREO was spotted on 13 May.  Very out of season was a HORNED LARK flushed from Bayshore Rd. by the Calf Pasture field on 16 May. BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS have been seen throughout the week, mostly near the Lighthouse.  Warblers were well represented with most regularly occurring species being seen, and with a notable fall-out on the rainy morning of 15 May.  GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLERS were seen on 12 and 15 May.  BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS were seen throughout the week in small numbers. An ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER on 15 May was a good find.  Some of the later arriving species were noted including MOURNING, BAY-BREATED, BLACKPOLL, WILSON’S and CANADA WARBLER on 15 May.

A SAVANNAH SPARROW on 16 May was presumably a late migrant since they have not bred at Presqu’ile in many years.  A mega rarity was the tame female BLUE GROSBEAK discovered feeding on the shoulder of Paxton Dr. on the evening of 12 May and seen (and photographed) by a lucky few. This was the third park record. An ebird report of a male on 16 May from the Lighthouse is tantalizing – hopefully the observer will submit a detailed report.  The other mega rarity found this week was the EURASIAN TREE SPARROW seen briefly on 14 and 15 May near the end of Bayshore Road.  This is a new bird for the Park and may still be around as there are many feeders at homes that are not visible from the road, and very few people are here looking for it.

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.