A storm on 1 December left 15 cm of snow and continued cold weather has frozen most still water, the immediate shoreline of the beach and islands, and the inner Bay. Although coverage was not extensive, it seems like its pretty quiet out there.
The freeze has concentrated most waterfowl to the outer part of Presqu’ile Bay; that said it seems that numbers are lower than normal for this time of year. The diving duck flock at the ice-edge in Presqu’ile Bay contained 350 GREATER SCAUP, 1 LESSER SCAUP and 20 REDHEAD on 4 Dec. Also present were 23 HOODED MERGANSER, 12 COMMON MERGENASER and a single RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. COMMON GOLDENEYE winter commonly but have seemed scarce this fall but by weeks’ end numbers had picked up considerably with a high count of 325 on 4 Dec.
Two lingering COMMON LOONS were off the Government Dock on 4 Dec. Now that there is ice on Presqu’ile Bay, BALD EAGLE sightings have become almost daily. An adult was standing on the ice beside a deer carcass that was being devoured by three Coyotes on 5 Dec. A few COOPER’S HAWKS were seen this week and on High Bluff Island (scope-able from Owen Pt.) both RED-TAILED and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were seen through the week.
It’s delightful to be able to talk about shorebirds in December. On 1 Dec (the day of the storm) a group of intrepid birders found three PURPLE SANDPIPERS at the west end of Gull Island, and another group on Owen Pt. saw two fly by, believed to be different birds. None were seen on 3 Dec when the area was next searched. Also to correct a mistake I made in last week’s report – there were three PURPLE SANDPIPERS seen, not two as reported - possibly the same three seen on Gull Is. An adult GLAUCOUS GULL was seen in a flock of 600 HERRING GULLS on Presqu’ile Bay on 5 Dec. The only report of RING-BILLED GULL was of four on 4 Dec.
SNOWY OWLS were seen regularly on the islands and beach through the week with a high of 3 on 3 Dec. RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS visited feeders along Bayshore Rd., and at the Campground Office through the week. Two MERLINS were seen together near the gate on 5 Dec. COMMON RAVENS are probably being seen more often than AMERICAN CROWS at this time of year – an inconceivable thought 20 years ago. Small numbers of GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS and BROWN CREEPERS were reported, and AMERICAN ROBINS were seen regularly, especially around the Calf Pasture area. On 1 Dec, 35 SNOW BUNTINGS were seen on Gull Island.
Sparrows seem scarce. Apart from DARK-EYED JUNCO and AMERICAN TREE SPARROW the only sparrow reports were of two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS at a Bayshore Rd feeder on 3 Dec and a single SWAMP SPARROW along the causeway on 5 Dec . Most unusual was a report with photos that was posted on Facebook of a BALTIMORE ORIOLE at a Brighton area feeder on 2 Dec but no further details have come forward. Finally a handful of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS were seen through the week at both Bayshore Rd feeders and at the Birdhouse Nature Store just outside the gate. Two COMMON GRACKLES were also at the Birdhouse Nature Store on 2 Dec.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Presqu’ile allows waterfowl hunting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and the public is not permitted in hunting areas on those days. The areas affected are the marsh, Calf Pasture Point, Gull and High Bluff Is., High Bluff Campground and Owen Pt. The hunt will continue until 21 December.
Directions: 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 (10 March-10 September).