POSTED | October 30, 2009 - Fred Helleiner
Before the November birding doldrums set in, there is still enough activity at Presqu'ile Provincial Park to make a day's birding there worthwhile. Moreover, some of the rare birds that periodically visit Presqu'ile have begun appearing and typically show up in November. The BRANT that has been frequenting the shores of Popham Bay was still present today, and three of that species were at Sebastopol Island on October 27. Two NORTHERN PINTAILS have joined the other dabbling ducks in the marsh. A report of a CANVASBACK and ten BLACK SCOTERS off the south shore of the peninsula on October 29 was unusual. A dead RED-THROATED LOON and several dead COMMON LOONS may have succumbed to botulism.
Few hawks were seen in the Park this week, but NORTHERN HARRIERS were around the islands on October 23 and 25. A large accipiter, perhaps a NORTHERN GOSHAWK, was at the lighthouse on October 27. At this time of year ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS can be expected, the only one found so far this fall being back on October 17. A falcon believed to be a MERLIN was harassing shorebirds on Sebastopol Island on October 27. Although not seen every year, GYRFALCONS do appear regularly at Presqu'ile at this time of year. The remains of a RING-NECKED PHEASANT, a species almost never seen alive in the Park, washed up on the beach.
There were at least two RUFFED GROUSE sightings in the past week, and the two WILD TURKEYS that have been straying onto Bayshore Road continue to put in appearances. The shorebird migration has slowed down, but, true to form, the first of that Presqu'ile specialty, a PURPLE SANDPIPER, was the not unexpected highlight on October 25. Subsequent searches later in the week were unsuccessful, but more of that species are expected next month. Ten other shorebird species appeared in the past week, and about fifty individuals, mostly DUNLINS, were still present today. Others of interest include a late SEMIPALMATED PLOVER on October 25, several GREATER and one LESSER YELLOWLEGS, a late LEAST SANDPIPER on October 27, up to 20 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS, and a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER on October 27. BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES are another rarity that occasionally appears at this time of year.
BARRED OWLS have again been seen and photographed by several observers, and a dead one was found on the beach. The latest sighting of an EASTERN PHOEBE was on October 25. An EASTERN BLUEBIRD was also seen on that date. There are still small flocks of AMERICAN PIPITS around Gull Island. Two FIELD SPARROWS on October 25 and the first two AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS on the following day were of interest, as were FOX SPARROWS on October 24 and 26. On October 25, two LAPLAND LONGSPURS were among the many SNOW BUNTINGS that have been around Owen Point all week.
The first NORTHERN SHRIKE of the season at the calf pasture on October 29
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 shin-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.