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Birding Report Week Ending May 31

Highlights:  BRANT, CATTLE EGRET, SANDHILL CRANE, RED KNOT, LESSER BLACL-BACKED GULL, BLACK TERN, WHIP-POOR-WILL, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, HOODED WARBLER, CLAY COLOURED SPARROW, DARK-EYED JUNCO

This may have been the last big week for the northward push of migrants (and it was great) but birders should not give up as there will still be more birds drifting north over the next week or two.

BRANT were seen three times with 22 on 26 May, 80 on 27 May and 80 on 30 May.  In addition to the many CANADA GOOSE and their broods that can be seen running around the beach, a number of adults were seen flying north over the week – very likely “moult migrants” who are heading to the Hudson Bay Lowland to moult and feed over the summer.  Other than MALLARDS, ducks have really thinned out but a few remain.  Two GADWALL were off the beach on 31 May, a male NORTHERN SHOVELER was sleeping on the natural beach on 30 May, a lingering male BUFFLEHEAD was off the beach on 26-27 May, 90 LONG-TAILED DUCK were seen off the picnic area on 26 May and two male COMMON MERGANSER were hauled up on the north beach on 31 May.

A few RUFFED GROUSE were heard drumming and a WILD TURKEY was gobbling on 26 May but both are getting much less conspicuous.  LEAST BITTERN has been seen and heard in both the Causeway section of the marsh as well as off the Marsh Boardwalk.  The CATTLE EGRET that was first seen on 23 May on Huff Rd., just NW of the park gate, was relocated on 26-27 May, but has not been seen since.  A report via ebird of a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK without details would be most unusual at this season.  Hopefully more information will be forthcoming. SANDHILL CRANES continue to be reported with a single calling over Bayshore Rd on 26 May, followed by two that evening at the Marsh Boardwalk.

It was another great week for shorebirds with some fairly large movements of DUNLIN and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, especially on 25 May.  Even later in the week a flock of 15 DUNLIN and 110 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER were seen flying west over the gate on 29 May.  Less common species included two WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER on 24-25 May dropping to one the next day. Single RED KNOTS were seen on 25 and 29 May. A WHIMBREL fed on algae along the beach on 26 May and a single DOWITCHER, not identified to species but likely Short-billed, was seen on 25 May. By 31 May the only migrant shorebirds left on the beach were two SEMIPALMATED PLOVER and a single SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER.  More may yet come through as northbound shorebirds are frequently noted into the second week of June.  Single displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK and WILSON’S SNIPE were heard at the Marsh Boardwalk at dusk on the 29th by the light of a brilliant full moon and with a deafening chorus of Green and Bullfrogs as backdrop.

Up to nine BONAPARTE’S GULL – all first summer birds – have been mixing with other gulls and terns on the beach.  Spawning Alewife (a small silver fish) have attracted big feeding frenzies of cormorants and gulls off the beach and the south shore off the picnic areas.  Up to 225 HERRING GULLS were noted in the swarms on 31 May, and these should be checked for uncommon species.  It seems that at least two LESSER-BLACK-BACKED GULLS are in the park – an adult and sub-adult were seen on 25 May.  Received to late for last week’s report was the sighting of two BLACK TERN on 24 May off the Fingers.  This once common nesting species blinked out in the late 90’s and is now reported less than annually. A flock of 25 ROCK PIGEONS seen flying over the marsh in a tight group were most likely homing pigeons as this species is otherwise rare in the Park.  A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was at the Lighthouse on 27 May and more can be expected given the abundance of caterpillars in many areas. Single COMMON NIGHTHAWKS were seen on 26 and 27 May.  Totally unexpected was a WHIP-POOR-WILL that sang briefly at dusk on 25 May – the nearest known breeding birds are about 8 km away. Three CHIMNEY SWIFTS flew past the gate on 26 May.

Several pairs of MERLIN breed in Presqu’ile but they get very quiet at this time of year.  One was seen at the gate on 31 May carrying what appeared to be a nestling and long strands of grass being followed by blackbirds. OLIVE SIDED FLYCATCHERS were seen on 26 May (3) and 29 May (1).  Single vocalizing ALDER FLYCATCHERS – which do not generally breed in the park - were reported on 24, 27 and 29 May. A migrant BLUE-HEADED VIREO on 26 May was somewhat late.  Two PHILADELPHIA VIREOS were seen on the same date.  A GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH appeared at a birdbath on 26 May and another was seen on the 29th.

Migrant warblers are thinning out now, and most species seen represent local breeding birds.  That said there were still some later migrants – MAGNOLIA, WILSON’S and BLACKPOLL - passing through.  A YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER on 27 May singing in the Fingers is likely a breeding bird rather than a late migrant.  The big surprise was an obliging male HOODED WARBLER that spent the day singing constantly along Paxton Dr. on 29 May and was enjoyed by many.  Another treat was a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW that spent about 30 minutes singing at the east end of Calf pasture on 26 May.  Single LINCOLN’S SPARROWS were noted on 25 and 26 May.  Received too late for last week’s report was a male DARK-EYED JUNCO that came to a feeder on Bayshore Rd. on the very late date of 24 May. Finally, two EASTERN MEADOWLARKS that behaved as a pair spent the morning in an old field just outside the gate, but were not seen afterwards.

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.