Few birds are more strongly associated with Presqu’ile than the Purple Sandpiper, and the Shrew crew went out to Gull Is. last week to connect with this much sought after shorebird. These tough, chunky birds breed in the eastern High Arctic then migrate south to winter along the Atlantic Coast from Labrador south to the Carolinas. While most other shorebird travel below of the equator to winter, Purples are perfectly at home probing for invertebrates on ice-covered, rocky shorelines much further north.
In southern Ontario it is generally considered extremely rare in spring and a rare
but annual fall migrant, mostly along the Lake Ontario shore. Presqu’ile is both one of the most consistent sites to find this late migrating species, and a place where you can often get unparalleled views up close. The best time to look is in November and December, and although they can occur anywhere along the shoreline, they are most often seen on the cobble and limestone flats on Gull Island. Typically one or a few are around but occasionally larger groups
have been seen, with the record being a whooping 57 in December, 1997.