In the middle of the current snowstorm at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, it is difficult to imagine that a few years ago an AMERICAN WOODCOCK arrived here before the end of February. Nevertheless, there is reason to expect such early migrants to appear within the next few days, both because of the historical record and because, while certainly not a flood, there has been a trickle of returning birds all week, especially last Saturday.
A single TRUMPETER SWAN on Saturday and four TUNDRA SWANS on Sunday were the first of these since earlier this month. Dabbling ducks usually come somewhat later than diving ducks, but a pair of MALLARDS sat on the edge of the ice in Presqu'ile Bay, where NORTHERN PINTAILS often sit on first arriving. Although these were the first in over a month, they were likely wintering nearby, and, like many other birds, were stimulated to engage in pre-vernal wandering. On the other hand, the build-up of dozens of CANVASBACKS and REDHEADS and a single early RING-NECKED DUCK off the government dock probably represent true migration. A female EIDER was observed in a spotting scope for a few minutes near the lighthouse on Saturday prior to flying off.
Unfortunately, the birder who saw it is insufficiently experienced with the two very similar species of female eider to determine whether it was a KING EIDER (the more likely of the two) or a COMMON EIDER, though it seemed to match descriptions of the latter in bird books. Later that morning, a female LESSER SCAUP and a female BLACK SCOTER were among the GREATER SCAUP at the government dock. The male BARROW'S GOLDENEYE near the lighthouse was still present yesterday, as it has been for most days this month. A male HOODED MERGANSER off the government dock on Saturday and a female RUDDY DUCK there on Wednesday round out the week's waterfowl sightings.
A SHARP-SHINNED HAWK was hunting near Bayshore Road bird feeders. The ridiculously tame, and inappropriately named, WILD TURKEY has continued to make its presence known along Bayshore Road. An AMERICAN COOT can sometimes be spotted among the scaup off the government dock.
RING-BILLED GULLS have returned in good numbers and will soon out-number the HERRING GULLS that have dominated all winter. Among the latter this week there have been sightings of ICELAND GULL, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, and GLAUCOUS GULL. For the past two days, the SNOWY OWL that had previously spent time on the ice of Presqu'ile Bay was once again sitting there. There are still good numbers of BARRED OWLS to be found, including nine individuals by one observer.
AMERICAN ROBINS have been flying past the lighthouse on recent mornings , one of them even singing when it landed. A few have been foraging on lawns prior to the snowfall. Two birds that had apparently disappeared from the Bayshore Road feeders where they had been for much of the winter were re-discovered earlier this week after an apparent absence of at least three weeks: WHITE-THROATED SPARROW and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.
The first HOUSE SPARROW at Presqu'ile since last fall dropped in briefly at a feeder on Monday.
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. The narrow channel between Owen Point and Gull Island is normally ice-covered at this time of year, but the ice, while appearing to be thick, might not support the weight of a human. However, the water beneath the crust is only ankle-deep. The surrounding shoreline can be very slippery. 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.