Shorebirding at Presqu’ile Provincial Park

Baird’s Sandpiper

On August 26th I joined Eastern Ontario Birding’s trip to Presqu’ile Provincial Park. The owner of EOB, Jon, is a friend of mine and got more than he bargained for when he agreed to pick me up at 5:30 am – as soon as he pulled up in front of my house a police car pulled up beside him to ask if he knew anything about a complaint that had been called in. Jon told the officer he was there to pick up a friend to go birding, and the police officer told him that he believed him (the eBird sticker on his car probably hadn’t gone unnoticed, and lent credibility to his statement). The police car drove off just as I was heading out the door, but we saw it stop with two other cruisers on Grassy Plains. Emerald Meadows is a quiet neighbourhood, and I certainly didn’t hear anything at 4:30 in the morning, but it made for a strange start to the day.
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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.

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Presqu’ile Part III: The Butterfly Field

Deb and I enjoyed our picnic by the water, though there were few ducks to be seen on the lake. One of my favourite spots in the park is the field of wildflowers behind the picnic area, where I enjoy spending time looking for butterflies. It is also a good spot for dragonflies, which can often be seen patrolling the skies above. Common Green Darners, mosaic darners, and Black Saddlebags are the chief species seen here, and I always hope to find them perching in the vegetation.

After we had finished our lunch I grabbed my net and my camera and went looking for butterflies. We saw and photographed Monarchs, crescents, Cabbage Whites, Clouded and Orange Sulphurs, Eastern Tailed Blues and, best of all, at least two Common Buckeyes! Continue reading

Presqu’ile Part II: At Owen Point

The first place we visited was Owen Point. Deb and I decided to do this trail first because the light was much better in the morning; when we visited Presqu’ile a year ago, we had left it until last and found that we were looking into the sun most of the time. This time the morning sun was behind us, which made for a much better experience.

There weren’t a lot of birds along the trail itself, but we did encounter quite a few other creatures that were equally interesting. There were lots of flowers in bloom along the trail, particularly around each lookout. This meant lots of butterflies – Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, Eastern Tailed Blues, crescents, Least Skippers, a beautifully fresh Question Mark with a delicate pinkish-violet underside and, of course, Monarchs. Continue reading

Return to Presqu’ile

On Sunday, September 11th Deb and I made the three-hour journey to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to check out the shorebird migration. It was another warm, beautiful day, and, as usual, we stopped to check out the little park at the foot of Harbour Street first. We saw a pair of Wood Ducks and three heron species in the marsh: a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret standing out in the open, and an American Bittern just inside the cattails. Deb found him slowly moving among the reeds, which was an amazing feat considering how difficult they are to spot due to their excellent camouflage!

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Shorebird Migration at Presqu’ile Provincial Park

On August 27th, five members of the OFNC led by Roy John drove down to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to enjoy a day of birding on the shores of Lake Ontario. Except for a few large banks of fog, the drive was uneventful. We saw one Osprey, two Green Herons in flight, and a couple of Great Blue Herons standing motionlessly in roadside marshes. Although a few more OFNC members met us at the park, I was surprised how few people had signed up given how wonderful Presqu’ile can be this time of year for birds, butterflies and dragonflies. The weather, too, couldn’t have been any better – blue skies and warm sunshine in the morning, followed by cloudy periods in the afternoon to prevent it from becoming too hot.

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Presqu’ile, Part III: Owen Point and Gull Island


Our last stop of the day at Presqu’ile was Owen Point. This sandy spit at the southwest corner of the park juts into Lake Ontario and attracts numerous shorebirds during each migration. Forty-one species of shorebirds have been recorded at Presqu’ile, and of these about 25 are seen annually. There is a sandy beach all along the west side of the peninsula, and the southern end is specially managed for the shorebirds that congregate here. Vegetation is removed, the algae is allowed to accumulate to provide a food source (they eat invertebrates in the algae), and a birding trail with numerous lookouts has been constructed to prevent disturbance to the birds.

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Presqu’ile, Part II: Butterflies, Warblers and an Osprey

Orange Sulphur

After leaving the marsh boardwalk, Deb and I drove over to the picnic area on the lake shore to take in the view and use the facilities. A couple of outhouses backed onto a a field full of wildflowers, and the large number of butterflies and dragonflies patrolling the field immediately intrigued me. While the majority of dragonflies were Common Green Darners, one dragonfly appeared smaller and had dark patches on its hindwings, which seemed unusually broad. Unfortunately, the dragonfly wouldn’t land, and so I had to base my ID solely on its appearance on the wing. I suspected it was a Black Saddlebags, a species that is common in Presqu’ile but rare in Ottawa; the field guide confirmed my suspicion, resulting in my first lifer of the day.

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Presqu’ile, Part I: The Marsh Boardwalk

Northern Harrier

Presqu’ile Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Ontario is one of the most outstanding natural areas on the lower Great Lakes and a premier destination for birders during migration. Over 200 bird species are recorded annually at Presqu’ile, and about 120 species are known to breed there. However, it is the regular appearance of vagrants – visiting species whose normal range does not typically include the park – which draws birders from across the province and elsewhere. In total, 333 species have been recorded in Presqu’ile, many of which are not seen every year. Some stray species which have shown up at Presqu’ile include Northern Gannet, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Townsend’s Solitaire, Blue Grosbeak, Prothonotary Warbler, and Gray Jay. A list of all the species recorded at Presqu’ile can be found here.

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