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Birding Report

Presqu’ile Bird Report for Week of 13-19 April 2018

Highlights this week include HARLEQUIN DUCK, RED-THROATED LOON, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, DUNLIN, SNOWY OWL, NORTHERN SHRIKE and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW.

The story this week was much the same as past few weeks with more north winds, cool temperatures, plus a crazy weekend ice pellet/rain event that froze protected water and left the ground covered in up to 10 cm of dense snow.  Not surprisingly there was very little visible migration and many species that should be common on this date are either still missing, or very scarce.  Promises of imminent warm weather should release a flood of backed-up migrants by the weekend.

Waterfowl remain numerous, although viewing has been hampered by choppy water on most days.  Puddle ducks are primarily being seen in the inner Bay and marsh, or along the beach where 12 NORTHERN PINTAIL and 26 GREEN-WINGED TEAL seen on 14 Apr.  Diving ducks are mostly in Presqu’ile Bay and are dominated by SCAUP and REDHEAD.  LONG-TAILED DUCK are being seen in flocks up to 300 in the open lake, and BUFFLEHEAD seem especially numerous right now.  The male HARLEQUIN DUCK remains elusive but was seen again on 13 Apr off the Lighthouse. It may still be around so careful searching is worthwhile, especially if we get a calm day.

RUFFED GROUSE were heard drumming in several wooded areas, and one was seen “budding” in a pussy willow on 14 Apr.  A RED-THROATED LOON was off Beach 1 on 13 Apr, and small numbers of COMMON LOON are being seen as well.  HORNED GREBES have increased noticeably this week with a high count of 25 on 19 Apr, and PIED-BILLED GREBE is now regular in the marsh in small numbers.  The only heron reported was GREAT BLUE HERON.  Single SHARP-SHIINED HAWKS were seen on 13 Apr and 19 Apr.  OSPREYS are back at the nest on the Salt Pt. lighthouse, although they spent much of the worst weather hunkered low in trees along the shore.

The only AMERICAN COOT was just outside the Park along Harbour St. on 18 Apr.  A few KILLDEER were noted along the beach, as was the first Arctic migrant shorebirds – a single DUNLIN on 13 Apr, followed by four more on 19 Apr.  A special phenomenon involving AMERICAN WOODCOCK happens at Presqu’ile when late snowstorms cover the ground, forcing birds into the open where they concentrate at select open ditches.  Over the weekend eight birds were seen this way on 15 and 16 Apr, including five in one spot.  An adult GLAUCOUS GULL was standing on the ice in a flock of RING-BILLED GULLS along the causeway on 18 Apr and birders who went to see it were rewarded with an immaculate adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL as well.  Two adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS have been frequenting Sebastopol Pt. (the small island just north of Gull Is.), raising some hope they might attempt to breed at this former nesting site.  A few sad looking CASPIAN TERNS have been seen over the marsh or standing on ice with gulls.

A late SNOWY OWL was just outside the Park gate on 14 Apr, and a BARRED OWL was seen along the wooded portion of the Marsh Boardwalk Trail – an unusual location for this species.  An AMERICAN KESTREL was spotted on 13 Apr. and a MERLIN was seen eating a PURPLE MARTIN near the Lighthouse on 18 Apr.  The only EASTERN PHOEBE noted was on 13 Apr.  A late NORTHERN SHRIKE was carefully studied at the Calf Pasture on 18 Apr.  The first PURPLE MARTINS were seen on 13 Apr when five took up residence near the Lighthouse. Two BARN SWALLOWS on 13 Apr are the only ones reported so far. 

A few GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS were found at various sites this week but just a tiny fraction of the expected numbers are back.  A female EASTERN TOWHEE appeared at a Bayshore Rd. feeder on 15 Apr followed by a second the next day.  The first two FOX SPARROWS were noted on 15 Apr, but SONG SPARROWS are still the only migrant sparrow that has appeared in any numbers, and even they are not yet common.  The immature WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW that has been wintering at the Birdhouse Nature Store feeders just outside the Park gate was seen several times and has transitioned to adult plumage in the span of just 10 days.  An EASTERN MEADOWLARK was seen near the Gate on 18 Apr and a RUSTY BLACKBIRD was at a Bayshore Rd. feeder with a mixed flock of blackbirds on 15 Apr.

Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, just south of the town of Brighton.  It can be reached from either Hwy. 401 or Cty. Rd. 2 and is well signed.  A Park map can be found in the information tabloid available at the Park gate.  Presqu’ile’s two offshore islands – Gull and High Bluff – support a large multi-species colonial bird nesting area and access is not permitted during the breeding season.