A variety of avian families was represented among the migrant birds that surged into Presqu'ile Provincial Park at the end of last week. At least one unexpected migrant was among them.
Wood Ducks have settled in at the Park and are being seen in the depths of the woods almost every day. Other dabbling ducks seen in the past week include a single American Black Duck and a pair of Northern Pintails in the marsh and a flock of Green-winged Teal along the beach.
A few White-winged Scoters are around and a diminishing number of Common Goldeneyes. Hooded Mergansers were seen twice on the weekend. The Red-throated Loons which are a Presqu'ile specialty are visible (barely and through a scope) in Popham Bay whenever the waves and other distorting factors permit it. On April 17, two Horned Grebes and a Red-necked Grebe were swimming close to shore at the lighthouse. With the aid of a scope, Great Egrets are visible on a nest on High Bluff Island and are sometimes seen elsewhere in the Park. As many as five Black-crowned Night-Herons are using the bush on Sebastopol Island as a perch during the day and may be considering re-establishing that as a nesting site after a hiatus of a couple of years. A Turkey Vulture soared over the calf pasture on April 19, and an Osprey was eating a fish there on April 23.
A call of the first Virginia Rail of the season was heard on April 22 off the new viewing tower at the marsh. A Dunlin appeared on the beach on April 19 and was joined by five others on April 21. All six have been present every day since then. Although these dates are not the earliest on record at Presqu'ile, a group of this size is unusual in April, the peak migration of that species occurring around the beginning of June. While a few Bonaparte's Gulls flew by in the past week, including eleven in one flock, the big numbers (and perhaps an accompanying Little Gull) have yet to arrive.
Although Red-bellied Woodpeckers are uncommon winter birds in the area around Presqu'ile, there are no known winter records for the Park, and spring arrivals usually occur late in April. This year, the first two were found on April 17, one just inside the Park gate and the other in Newcastle Woods, where it was still present on the following day. The only regular swallow that has not yet returned to the Park is Cliff Swallow. Mid- to late April is when most of the few spring records of Tufted Titmouse have occurred, and feeder watchers should be alert for that possibility. A very early House Wren was on High Bluff Island on April 21. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet has been in the same clump of trees near the lighthouse on four of the past five days. Not unexpectedly, Hermit Thrushes have been seen in various parts of the Park all week.
The biggest surprise was a Northern Mockingbird near the lighthouse on April 17, that was heard again on the following day. A Brown Thrasher was also there and singing. The first warbler of the spring was a Pine Warbler (predictably in "The Pines" campground) on April 18 and repeatedly since then in the same location. Two days later, the first of several Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Palm Warbler were at the lighthouse. At least ten of the former were on High Bluff Island on April 21. An Eastern Towhee was also there. What may be the last American Tree Sparrow until October was at the lighthouse on April 18, along with two Field Sparrows. Chipping Sparrows have also returned on time. Numerous Fox Sparrow sightings have been noted in various parts of the Park all week, but especially in "The Pines" campground. The only Rusty Blackbird this spring was found in Newcastle Woods on April 17. Some of the highest counts of Pine Siskins since mid-winter have been recorded at 186 and 187 Bayshore Road in recent days: 21 on April 21 and 20 on April 22.
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. Access to the offshore islands is restricted at this time of year to prevent disturbance to the colonial nesting birds there.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA.