Presqu’ile Bird Report for the Week of 20-26 April 2018
By Doug McRae
Highlights this week include HARLEQUIN DUCK, SANDHILL CRANE, SNOWY OWL, and SHORT-EARED OWL.
Spring finally arrived. The warmer weather and southerly airflow released a major flights of birds into the area, especially on Monday. It seems that almost overnight migration caught up to where it should be in late April.
Waterfowl of most expected species are still present, although numbers of diving ducks are beginning to drop. The best places for viewing recently has been the Lighthouse area, off the beach and islands, and the inner part of Presqu’ile Bay which is most easily observed from the Harbour St. Parkette, just outside the park. Migrating CANADA GEESE were obvious on several mornings early this week but no unusual species were seen among them. Flocks of several hundred SCAUP and REDHEAD were observed migrating west out of the park marsh at dusk on Apr 22 and 23. Both LONG-TAILED DUCK and BUFFLEHEAD are present in large numbers with highs of 800 and 175 respectively on 22 Apr. The best duck of the week was the ongoing but very elusive male HARLEQUIN DUCK which made an appearance off the Lighthouse on 20 Apr.
RUFFED GROUSE are being heard drumming in most wooded areas this week. RED-THROATED LOONS were seen on several dates with singles at the Lighthouse on 22 Apr., a single off the east Picnic area on 24 Apr, and as many as six off the beach on 24 Apr, including one in breeding plumage. COMMON LOONS were seen regularly including a grouping of 14 in the inner bay on 22 Apr. HORNED and PIED BILLED GREBES were seen almost daily. Single RED-NECKED GREBES were noted on 22 and 26 Apr.
Herons were better represented with four species reported this week. Looking with a scope from Beach 1 it is possible to see GREAT EGRETS standing at their nests on High Bluff Island. The high count was 19 on 24 Apr. Five BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS could also be seen in a clump of cedars on High Bluff Island on 24 Apr. Both GREAT BLUE HERON and AMERICAN BITTERN were noted this week. A BALD EAGLE was seen on 20 Apr. The first COMMON GALLINULE was heard on 24 Apr at the Camp Office viewing deck. A SANDHILL CRANE was heard just outside the park on 24 Apr near the Constructed Wetland at the junction of Cty. Rd. 64 and Harbour St.
KILLDEER, AMERICAN WOODCOCK AND WILSON’S SNIPE were found regularly, although no WOODCOCK could be heard in a night survey on 23 Apr at their usual displaying sites between the gate and Park Store, making one wonder if last week’s snow storm caused some mortality. Otherwise the only other shorebirds was a GREATER YELLOWLEGS on Beach 3 on 24 Apr. The first BONAPARTE’S GULL was a single noted on 22 Apr followed by 30 the next day. A RING-BILLED GULL was seen dragging a dead PURPLE MARTIN around near the Lighthouse on 24 Apr. Two COMMON TERNS seen on 24 Apr were the first, and CASPIAN TERNS are now common with a high count of 120 on 24 Apr.
A GREAT HORNED OWL was flushed from the roadside at Beach 2 on the night of 23 Apr. An inspection of the site revealed a freshly killed RUFFED GROUSE. A late SNOWY OWL spent the day on Owen Pt. on 23 Apr and a SHORT-EARED OWL – a rarely seen bird at Presqu’ile - was flushed from the back of Beach 1 on 23 Apr. One of the resident BARRED OWLS was heard calling in the daytime on 22 Apr. RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER continues to gain ground here with eight seen in one morning between the “Y” junction and the Group Camp area on 22 Apr and at least four more in the Newcastle woods area the next day. The first YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was seen on 20 Apr and they became common over the following few days. Similarly NORTHERN FLICKER became common almost overnight. Two migrant AMERICAN KESTREL were noted on 22 Apr and another the following day. A MERLIN was at Beach 1 on 23 Apr.
EASTERN PHOEBE is now being seen regularly with a high count of 12 on 23 Apr. ROUGH-WINGED, BARN And BANK SWALLOW returned this week, joining PURPLE MARTIN and TREE SWALLOW. A flock of 13 ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW near the gate on 26 Apr was a high count. Migrant BROWN CREEPER and both KINGLETS were present in good numbers, especially on the 23rd. Twenty-five HERMIT THRUSH were noted on 23 Apr, and BROWN THRASHER also returned this week with birds reported at several sites.
Warblers finally made an appearance this week. PINE and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER were first seen on 23 Apr with 8 and 25 respectively. A very yellow PALM WARBLER was also seen on 23 Apr, but perhaps not yellow enough to be the rare eastern subspecies hypocrysea. A COMMON YELLOWTHROAT seen on 24 Apr was quite early.
EASTERN TOWHEE was seen on most days, and CHIPPING, FIELD and SWAMP SPARROW returned this week. The first migrant WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were noted on 23 Apr when five were found, and the wintering WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders just outside the gate was singing almost daily from the defunct mini putt golf course. A few EASTERN MEADOWLARKS were reported from various sites and a RUSTY BLACKBIRD was seen near the Lighthouse on 23 Apr.
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.