Although it is still just over a month until this year's Christmas Bird Count is held at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, the sightings of the past week give rise to hopes for a profitable event.
In addition to the hundreds of CANADA GEESE, that have been lingering for weeks, a migrating "V" heading south high overhead this morning evidently anticipated the snow that moved in this afternoon or the sub-zero temperature that is forecast for tonight. A few TUNDRA SWANS have been around. The first WOOD DUCK in over a week, a female, was in the marsh yesterday, and a NORTHERN SHOVELER was there two days earlier, perhaps the last of the dabbling ducks in the marsh if it freezes over tonight. One or two CANVASBACKS have been with the REDHEADS in Presqu'ile Bay on three of the past seven days. SURF SCOTERS were also there at least until Tuesday, and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS continue there. A BLACK SCOTER was off Owen Point on Sunday. Three HOODED MERGANSERS were in the marsh on Sunday. Lingering water birds this week have included small numbers of COMMON LOONS, PIED-BILLED and HORNED GREBES, and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, as well as a GREAT BLUE HERON outside the Park gate. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were seen on Sunday. Of the five shorebird species still present this week, the highlight was a PURPLE SANDPIPER on Gull Island this afternoon, the first in over a year.
Two SNOWY OWLS showed up off Owen Point on Sunday, three were there the next day, and at least one this afternoon. A BARRED OWL was seen on Monday. A late BELTED KINGFISHER was at Salt Point on the weekend. A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER was seen on Saturday. There have been a couple of MERLIN sightings, but the most intriguing falcon that was observed only briefly by a birder who was otherwise occupied was a large one. This being the season for GYRFALCONS, that species can not be ruled out and should be watched for. A COMMON RAVEN was seen on Sunday. Every visit to Gull Island has yielded SNOW BUNTINGS for the past few weeks. A late FIELD SPARROW was present on Tuesday. An EASTERN MEADOWLARK was flushed on Gull Island on Sunday. In decreasing order of numbers, finches observed this week were AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, PINE SISKIN, PURPLE FINCH, HOUSE FINCH, and WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL, the latter a bright male that landed briefly on a lawn on November 7.
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 water that is knee-deep, not taking into account any wave action, 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 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days. 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.
Questions and comments about bird sightings at Presqu'ile may be directed to: FHELLEINER@TRENTU.CA