The recent weekend provided good numbers of songbirds for those inclined to work for them.Various observers came up with nine species of warblers. Though access to prime habitat is severely limited by the Presqu'ile duck hunt, shorebirding continued to be steady with eleven species seen over the week. The recent November-like weather might sound the death knell for songbird sightings but could expedite the appearance of some of Presqu'ile's autumn specialties.
A September 30 shorebird survey along the beach also yielded a pale, "blue morph" Snow Goose (also reported September 28) and, at Owen Point, a Cackling Goose. Surviving dabbling ducks included a Wood Duck on September 27, and good numbers of Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Ducks,Mallards and Green-winged Teal. On September 29, three Northern Shovellers and a Northern Pintail joined the ranks off beach 3. Flocks of Greater Scaup were seen flying over Owen Point on Oct 1 and Common Mergansers can usually be found in the same area.
The apparently resident Wild Turkey was seen off Bayshore Rd. on September 26 and 30. Horned Grebes can usually be spotted with a scope in Popham Bay off Owen Point and, unfortunately, Red-necked Grebes, possibly the victims of botulism, have begun washing up on the beach and on Gull Island. An American Bittern was seen in the marsh on the 27th as was a Great Egret on the 25th. A Turkey Vulture was unexpectedly seen cruising low over the beach on September 29. A late Osprey flew over the beach on September 26, a Northern Harrier and a Sharp-shinned Hawk were seen on the 27th, a Cooper's Hawk skulked behind the park store on the 29th and, throughout the week, anyone spending time on the beach was bound to see a Merlin hurtle by.
Semipalmated Plovers were abundant about Owen Point and on Gull Island for the entire week and three or four Black-bellied Plovers could usually be seen in the same area. Singles of the less common American Golden Plover were seen on Gull Island on September 26 and on October 1. A single Lesser Yellowlegs was seen on September 26, while in the Owen Point/ Gull Island zone, Sanderlings proved to be the park's most abundant shorebird. Several Semipalmated Sandpipers usually mingled with the Owen Point/Gull Island flocks, good numbers of Least Sandpipers persisted in the same region and up to three Baird's Sandpipers were also seen. Single Pectoral Sandpipers were observed on September 27 and 29th. Dunlin numbers continue to rise and probably the season's last Long-billed Dowitcher sighting was made on September 25.
Gull sightings have been routine with a "big one" being overdue. A late individual Caspian Tern was seen off Owen Point on October 1. A snazzy, banded homing/racing pigeon (Rock Pigeon) which is no doubt lost continues to persist about Gull Island. A late Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and an Eastern Phoebe fraternized with a mixed-species flock at the beginning of the southern Owen Point Trail on October 1. Presqu'ile continues to be bereft of exotic kingbirds.
A single, late Tree Swallow flew over 186 Bayshore on September 30 and both nuthatches, Brown Creepers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are still being seen. Surprisingly, waves of thrushes have not materialized with the only reports including a Gray-cheeked at the lighthouse on September 26 and a Hermit in the same place the day before. October 2 is the first anniversary of the improbable and short-lived appearance of a female Varied Thrush on Paxton Drive. American Pipits can be regularly seen on Gull Island.
The weekend provided the best variety of warbler species. Single Orange-crowned Warblers were reported at the lighthouse on September 25 and 28, a Northern Parula was seen on the 27th, a late Yellow Warbler on the 26th, Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warblers on the 27th and a Blackburnian Warbler on the 26th. By week's end flocks, if found, were mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers.
Song, Swamp and White-throated Sparrows were still regularly seen throughout the week. White-crowned Sparrows were seen on Gull Island on October 1 and Dark-eyed Juncos were reported on September 27. A Lapland Longspur was seen on Gull Island on September 27 and three were seen there on October 1.
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. Visitors to Gull Island not using a boat should be prepared to wade through knee-deep water in which there is often a swift current and a substrate that is somewhat uneven and slippery. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days until December 20. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.
Reporting for Fred Helleiner