Park Blog # 19 – Late winter walks 2016
February and March were great months to be taking advantage of the trails of Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Lighter amounts of snow and milder temperatures meant that I could easily navigate the roads and walkways without too much effort. I loved the longer amounts of sunshine even though there were some days where the winds were icy cold and brisk.
The sightings of Bald Eagles usually seen feeding on the edge of the ice in Presqu’ile Bay was one of the highlights for me. On several visits I was lucky enough to see up to five of these majestic birds, usually a combination of both adults and immature. Using the telescopic lens of my camera, I was amazed one trip to see three feeding on a deceased Mute Swan. Another time, a mature Bald Eagle was perched at the top of a tree surveying Lake Ontario right at the end of the Calf Pasture Point.
The waterfowl migrating through didn’t seemed perturbed by his presence and the rafts of Long-tailed Ducks and Lesser and Greater Scaup continued to bob up and down serenely on the waves of Lake Ontario.
Mute Swans are always present at Presqu’ile Provincial Park and captivate visitors of all ages. Their intricate grooming fascinated me one sunny afternoon as I watched the Swan twist his long neck into almost impossible positions. This video shows how he used his bill as a comb, making sure that every feather was groomed, feathered and then put back into place. https://youtu.be/sUYUKJQojg8
Inland walks in late winter are especially pleasant. There were times when all I could hear was the crunching of the snow under my boots, and the jingle of my Border Collie, Jesse’s leash. Stopping to take a look at tracks in the snow, the forest would be eerily quiet…not even the soft “spring song” whistle of the Black-capped Chickadee disturbing the silence. One of my favorite early arrivals is the elusive Brown Creeper blending in so perfectly with the bark of the trees. Hearing its quiet “trees-trees see the trees” song I look for the Creepers journey, it always travels up the tree trunk. I was quite happy to get a clear image of one late in February.
Winter is a great time to discover all of the bird nests that you missed!!! I discovered this vireo nest while walking through Jobes’ Wood Trail. The intricate weaving of the nest to the branch is amazing. The hanging design in the fork of a branch, often with birch bark ribbons on the outside are typical of vireo nests. It could either be a Warbling Vireo or Red-eyed Vireo, and I’ve made a mental note of its location, hoping that they will nest nearby again this spring.
My regular lunchtime routine is spent at the camp office parking lot, parked strategically so that I can enjoy the bird feeder. Sipping hot tea from my thermos, with my camera close beside me, I watch the flurry of activity. A few times, I brought along whole and shelled peanuts and placed them on the picnic bench next to the feeder. Always on the lookout for a good snack, the Blue Jays would swoop in with precision. With awe, I observed them scooping up to five nuts into their gullets and then would still manage to fit a whole peanut at the tip of their beak.
The Cardinals arrived in pairs lunching on the sunflower seeds, while the vivid black, white and red of the male Downey Woodpecker was a regular on the suet feeder.
With the end of Winter comes the beginning of Spring and I look forward to chasing Butterflies, welcoming back migrating Warblers and walking the trails of Presqu’ile Provincial Park.