Presqu’ile Pit Stop

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

I left southern Ontario dark and early on Saturday, August 23rd. By 8:30 am I had made it to Brighton and decided to stretch my legs at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, a great spot to see shorebirds along Lake Ontario in the fall. It was cloudy but humid by the time I arrived at my first stop, Owen Point, and the mosquitoes were pretty nasty. I didn’t see much along the trail until I reached the last lookout, where I spotted an Empidonax flycatcher in the vegetation. It flew off before I could form any sort of impression of ID. A fellow birder kindly pointed out a couple of shorebirds at the tip of Owen Point and allowed me to spray up with his bug spray. I saw the Black-bellied Plover at the tip but couldn’t see the Ruddy Turnstone he had mentioned; at my feet, two Semipalmated Sandpipers and two Semipalmated Plovers were foraging along the water’s edge.

The Black-bellied Plover flew off before I could snap any pictures, but the other shorebirds were much more obliging and seemed in no hurry to leave. As there isn’t much shorebird habitat along the Ottawa River this year, this visit to Presqu’ile might prove to be the only chance I have to see these cute little birds up close.

Semipalmated Plover & Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plover & Sandpiper

Both the plover and the sandpiper have a slight amount of webbing between their toes, which is what the term “semipalmated” refers to. Both birds are relatively common migrants through our area.

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

One of the smallest “peeps”, the Semipalmated Sandpiper can be identified by its dark legs and relatively straight bill. The Least Sandpiper, which is slightly smaller, has yellow legs and a bill with a slight droop to it. A couple of these sparrow-sized shorebirds flew in with two more Semipalmated Sandpipers and another Semipalmated Plover. I was hoping for a Sanderling or a White-rumped Sandpiper or a Baird’s Sandpiper, none of which I’ve seen this year, but none were present.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

The tip of Owen Point is also a good spot to see Monarch butterflies in the fall. A few were nectaring on the thistles and, after the shorebirds all flew off, I spent some time photographing the butterflies. There were about a dozen along the trail; I haven’t seen this many in one place in quite a while, and certainly not in the last two years. It was heartening to see so many Monarchs as their numbers have been declining drastically.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

I didn’t see any other interesting butterfly species along the trail. I was hoping for some Common Buckeyes or Question Marks, both species I’ve seen here in the past. It’s hard to believe I haven’t seen a Question Mark all year. However, it is a migrant, which means it is more common in some years than in others.

After leaving Owen Point I stopped in at the day use area along the shore. Although not great for birds, the meadow behind the outhouses is a great spot for bugs and I thought I might see some hunkered down while waiting for the sun to come out. The sky was quite gray over the lake.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

In the meadow I found a few more Monarchs, a Giant Swallowtail, my first Band-winged Meadowhawk of the season, and a Black Saddlebags! Few dragonflies were flying, so I was happy when I scared this one up out of the grass and watched where it landed. Black Saddlebags spend more time flying than perching, so it’s a real treat any time I can get a photo of this species.

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

I didn’t stop at the Lighthouse, one of my favourite areas to look for hummingbirds and skulking songbirds, but I did stop by the lookout at the Calf Pasture. The water was really high and there weren’t any ducks or terns in the bay; however, an Osprey was perching in the same tree where I’d last seen one years ago. As there were no birds around I didn’t linger, and by that time I was itching to get home. I left the park and headed straight back onto the road.

Presqu’ile is definitely worth more than a “pit stop”. The marsh is good for marsh birds, migrant songbirds in the woods at the end of the trail, and of course dragonflies. As mentioned above, the trails surrounding the Lighthouse are great for migrants, and I’ve never even tried the Jobe’s Woods trail. The star attraction for me, however, is Owen Point and the shorebirds that stop over on the beach during migration. Though I didn’t see many species, a few flocks were flying around and may have contained something interesting. If I had had more time I would have stayed and waited for them to fly in.

While short, my visit was nevertheless a great way to finish my trip to southern Ontario. Hopefully I will make it back there again sometime soon!

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4 thoughts on “Presqu’ile Pit Stop

  1. Presqu’ile is definitely on my places to bird list. Great shots in this post. I lave the one where you captured both the Semipalmated Plover and Sandpiper in the same frame. Well done.

    • If you are going to go, this is the best time for both warblers and shorebirds. However, shorebirds stick around until the last Purple Sandpipers show up in November, and some amazing rarities have shown up in the time in between. You really can’t go wrong with a fall trip to Presqu’ile!

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