Updated: Jun 21, 2021
By Doug McRae
Photo: Andrea Kingsley
This report is primarily based on sightings gleaned from eBird, and those reported directly to me. I would be grateful to hear of any interesting sightings. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your observations are very much appreciated. If you are reporting something rare, please provide some details (exact location, ID features noted) or photographs if possible.
HIGHLIGHTS: American Bittern, Virginia Rail, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill
OVERVIEW: Let me start by offering my apologies for missing the last few weeks. Spring is undeniably well underway now. With the ice gone many diving ducks have left and those that remain are mostly spread out over the Bay. The best time to look is early morning when the water tends to be most calm, birds are closer to shore and boat activity hasn’t flushed them far out. Gull and High Bluff Island are getting busy with colonial nesting species like Herring and Ring-billed Gull and Double-crested Cormorants. Soon they will be joined by Caspian and Common Terns, Black-crowned Night-Herons and Great Egrets. At the present time the low water level has created a land bridge from Owen Pt. to Gull Is. If this remains it will be problematic for ground nesting birds since land predators will be able to easily visit. Regardless, humans are asked to not go to the Island between 10 March and 10 September to protect the nesting activities. Other signs of spring are everywhere with marsh birds like American Bittern and Virginia Rail back already, and the first wave of song bird migration stating to become obvious with flocks of kinglets and creepers as well as the first insect eaters like Tree Swallow, Eastern Phoebe and Yellow-rumped Warbler. The next few weeks will see a huge increase in both numbers and species diversity.
Blue-winged Teal: Two sightings of this increasingly scarce duck with singles on 27 Mar and 1 Apr.
White-winged Scoter: Small numbers are still about, mostly in the mouth of Presqu’ile Bay, with a high of 12 on 27 Mar.
Common Loon: The first report of spring was of 1 on 27 Mar.
Horned Grebe: The first of spring was a single on 30 Mar.
Double-crested Cormorants: The first birds have started to return to nesting sites on Gull and High Bluff Is., with a high count of 65 on 27 Mar.
American Bittern: One seen on 29 Mar was a little early.
Great Egret: A single was seen from Presqu’ile Parkway on 1 Apr.
Osprey: The nesting pair on the Salt Point lighthouse in Presqu’ile Bay returned on 30 Mar.
Virginia Rail: An early bird was seen on 30 Mar.
Bonaparte’s Gull: The first of year were 2 seen on 30 Mar.
Great Black-backed Gull: 6 seen on Gull Is. on 28 Mar is a high count for recent years. Birders should watch for any sign nesting since the gull colony is now very busy with breeding birds. Gull Is. was one of the first and few places this species nested in the Great Lakes but sadly most of the Great Lakes breeding population, including all the Presqu’ile birds, was wiped out by botulism in the early 2000’s.
Red-bellied Woodpecker: One was seen excavating a nest cavity in Jobes Woods on 27 Mar.
Pileated Woodpecker: Similarly one was seen excavating a nest cavity on 26 Mar.
Eastern Phoebe: The first of spring was a single on 26 Mar.
Tree Swallow: 20 seen on 28 Mar was the first report of this returning aerial insectivore.
Brown Creeper: Migrants were seen throughout the week with a high count of 35 on 1 Apr.
Golden-crowned Kinglet: Like creepers, and often with them, migrants were obvious all week with a high count of 22 on 26 Mar.
Yellow-rumped Warbler: It must be spring if the warblers are returning! An early migrant was seen at the lighthouse on 27 Mar. It or another was seen at Calf Pasture on 30 Mar.
Rusty Blackbird: Small numbers seen throughout the week with a high of 8 on 30 Mar.
Red Crossbill: Birds have been seen for much of the past few weeks in the large conifers near the junction of Paxton Rd. and Atkins Lane (the road to the Calf Pasture Parking area). The high count was at least 15 on 27 Mar.
White-winged Crossbill: This species has also been regular in the Paxton/Atkins area, often in the same tree as the Red Crossbills offering a rare side-by-side comparison. The high count was 40 on 27 Mar.
Please Note: Access to Gull and High Bluff Island is closed to visitation between 10 March and 10 September to protect the thousands of colonial birds that nest on the islands.
Directions: Presqu’ile Provincial Park is located south of Brighton on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It is well signed from either Hwy. 401 or Cty. Rd. 2.
Doug McRae Shrew Solutions Inc. 240 Presqu’ile Parkway Brighton, Ontario K0K 1H0 613-475-5014 H 613-243-4161 C