PRESQU'ILE PROVINCIAL PARK
Spring: **** Summer: ** Fall: **** Winter: **
Warning: This park is used by hunters in season. Please check to see when and where shooting is allowed. Currently, duck hunting is allowed on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday during hunting season. Gull Island and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird watching on those days. Be careful.
Independent Directions to this Site: Presqu'ile Provincial Park is just over 3 hours southwest of Ottawa and 106 km west of Kingston, Ontario. Take Highway 417 from Ottawa west to Highway 416 (exit 132). Follow 416 SSE 80 km to Highway 401. Turn right onto 401 and go 212 km to exit 509 at Highway 30. Exit south on Highway 30 and proceed 5 km to Brighton.To reach Presqu'ile Provincial Park from Brighton, follow signs to the Park.
Ottawa to Presqu'ile Provincial Park Map
Site Description and Birding Information: This small peninsula, hooking into Lake Ontario just west of the much larger Quinte Peninsula, is one of the few protected areas along the lakeshore and provides exceptional birding during both spring and fall migrations. The main reason it exists is because duck shooters prize it as a great hunting spot. Please remember that If it weren't for them, it would have been "developed" long ago.
Map of Presqu'ile Provincial Park Area
The marshes and harbour inside the hook of the point provide excellent food and shelter for myriads of waterfowl in migration and in winter as long as the water is open. Although the bulk of the thousands of ducks wintering in the bay are Greater Scaup, there are also good numbers of Redheads and Canvasbacks. Here you can see three species of swan, Mute, Tundra and Trumpeter in early spring; as well as large numbers of geese and ducks. Mute Swan has begun to breed here. Bald Eagle is sometimes seen.
Popham Bay, on the west side of the isthmus, should also be checked for waterbirds when the water is open. Each year concentrations of Red-throated Loons are seen, usually well off shore, from late March through April. Over 20 winter plumaged Red-throated Loons have been seen here in a single day (Apr. 19, 2005). King Eider are seen almost yearly in late fall and early winter. The latest was a female off Gull Island on Nov. 2 and off Beach 1 Nov. 17, 2004.
Brant at Presqu'ile Provincial Park
What many birders know as Beach # 4 is now known as the Natural Beach. The beach has been fenced off and signs reading "Beach 4" have been taken down to prevent disturbance to the shorebirds which use it. An attempt has been made to control the willows invading the beach. This has resulted in ruts which provide excellent hiding places for these birds. The Natural Beach is also a resting spot for numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls in season.
By far the biggest attraction for birders at Presqu'ile in late summer through autumn is the concentration of shorebirds wherever there is algae washed up on the strandline, primarily between Beach 3 and Owen Point, including the afore-mentioned Natural Beach. Large numbers of individuals and species justify the reputation of this spot as one of Ontario's premier shorebird viewing locations. Numbers of Baird's (up to 60) and Buff-breasted (up to 7) Sandpipers have been found in mid to late August. In early to mid-November, small numbers of Purple Sandpipers stop briefly - check Gull and Sebastopol Islands.
Less common gulls and terns should be watched for here as well. Little Gull is seen at irregular intervals at the Natural Beach and Gull Island during the summer and fall. Forster's Tern has been seen at Owen's Point on Sep. 5, 20 & 21, 2002; off Beach # 2 on Sep. 30, 2003; 3 were on Beach # 1 on June 3, 2004; one off Owen's Point on Aug. 2, 2004, and 3 over Popham Bay on Sep. 30, 2004. Lesser Black-backed Gull has been seen in autumn, most recently on Oct. 5, 2003. Laughing Gull has been seen here a number of times. This is also a good spot for hawk watching because of the obvious food source. Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawk and Northern Harrier are all possible.
Gull Island, just off Owen Point, is also used by roosting gulls and shorebirds. Gull Island can be reached by boat or by wading from Owen Point, but the latter is a bit dangerous. It is necessary to slog through shin- to knee-deep, swiftly flowing water over a rough, rocky bottom. Perhaps better to bring a good spotting scope. Sebastopol Island is the small island to the north of, and formerly connected to, Gull Island. It is possible to wade from Gull Island to Sebastopol Island only with hip waders, and then only when the water is relatively calm. For several years now, a small number of Great Egret nests of have been discovered by Park staff on High Bluff Island (to the SW of Gull Island), where as many as eleven birds have been seen at one time. Individuals and pairs are regularly seen around the marsh, on the natural beach near Owen Point, and flying over. It should also be noted that during hunting season, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird watching on those days.
Forested areas in the interior of the park, such as Jobes' Woods and the "fingers", harbour uncommon species for southern Ontario in summer, such as Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Veery, Black-and-white Warbler, and Ovenbird. This group of birds is more likely in central Ontario than along the lakeshore. It also harbours Pileated Woodpecker and Barred Owl year round.
The so-called "Calf Pasture" is one of the best spots for landbird migrants. This is a good spot for rarities. The Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was seen here in 1986.
Bayshore Road, which is partly outside the park but still on the point, is another spot worth checking. There are several feeders along it that can be worth checking for wintering finches, etc. A pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers believed to be nesting at the lighthouse can often be seen enlarging a crack in a wooden light standard outside 187 Bayshore Road. Both male and female Orchard Orioles are being seen regularly near where they have bred for the past two years (186 Bayshore Road) and at the foot of Langdon Lane. The Customs Dock on Bayshore Road is an excellent viewpoint for waterfowl.
Rare birds reported from Presqu'ile Provincial Park include:
Ivory Gull (Jan. 2, 1967 and Dec. 19, 2004),
Lesser Sand-Plover (was Mongolian Plover) (May 4, 1981 or 1984),
Willet (record high on May 4, 1981),
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Sep. 28-29, 1986),
Sandwich Tern (Jun. 14, 1988 - Owen Point - for a week or two),
King Rail (May 17-18, 1996 - lighthouse, May 19, 2005 - marsh),
California Gull (Oct. 25, 2001),
Prairie Falcon (May 25, 2002),
Snowy Egret (May 29, 2002; May 18, 2008 - Salt Point),
Lark Sparrow (May 29, 2002),
Kentucky Warbler (May 30, 2002),
Cattle Egret (Aug. 24-Sep. 4, 2002; Oct. 20, 2006 - Huff Road, west of Brighton),
Hooded Warbler (Sep. 2, 2002; May 17, 2005 - near lighthouse; May 19, 2006 - store; May 10, 2007 - Paxton Road; 4 in May 2008),
Sabine's Gull (Sep. 28, 2002; imm. dead - Oct. 2, 2007 - Owen Point; imm. Oct. 16 & 21, 2007 - Gull Island),
Gyrfalcon (Oct. 25, 2002, Nov. 3, 2004 - 3rd Beach),
Black Vulture (Dec. 1, 2002),
Yellow Rail (May 10 - 25, 2003 & May 2 - 28, 2004 (2 on May 7th) - beginning of Marsh Boardwalk),
White-winged Dove (May 15 - 17, 2003),
Yellow-headed Blackbird (May 15 -16, 2003 & Dec. 18, 2005),
American Avocet (June 8, 2003 - Beach 3; Sep. 28, 2006 - Gull Island),
Laughing Gull (July 5, 2003 - Natural Beach, Sep. 21, 2004 - Gull Island, Sep. 2, 2005 - Owen Point),
Eurasian Wigeon (Apr. 4 & May 2, 2004; Mar. 28 - Apr. 1, 2005 - off Bayshore Road; Apr. 2-3, 2008 - High Bluff Campground),
Sandhill Crane (seen with some regularity in 2004 and may be breeding nearby),
American White Pelican (four previous Aug. records; Jul. 25-26, 2004; Jul. 18, 2009 - Owen Point),
Parasitic Jaeger (Aug. 23, 2004 & Sep. 22, 2004 - both off Sebastopol Point; Oct. 19 & 26-27, 2006 - Owen Point),
Dickcissel (Aug. 29, 2004 - Beach 4),
Black-legged Kittiwake (Oct. 7 off Salt Point & Nov. 17, 2004 off Beach 1, Oct. 31 & Nov. 9, 2006),
Tufted Titmouse (Oct. 9, 2004 - Mar. 29, 2005 - Bayshore Road; Apr. 11-12, 2005 - Bayshore Road),
White-eyed Vireo (Oct. 13, 2004 - near lighthouse; May 14 & 16, 2007; Oct. 22, 2011 - 1 imm. - Beach 3 access road),
Great Gray Owl (Dec.18, 2004 to at least Jan. 28, 2005 and just outside the park to at least Apr. 9, 2005),
Yellow-throated Warbler (May 18, 2005 - near lighthouse),
Piping Plover (May 21 - Jun. 6, 2005, May 29-30, 2006 - beaches, 2 from May 13-14, 2010 and different singles on May 23, 2010 and from May 22-25, 2010 - beaches),
Prairie Warbler (signing male - Jun. 20, 2005 - Calf Pasture),
Connecticut Warbler (c. Aug. 25, 2005 - Bayshore Road),
Wilson's Plover (May 17 & May 25-27, 2006 - Owen Point/Beaches),
Western Sandpiper (1-2 - Aug. 18-19, 2006 - Owen Point; Apr. 29, 2008 - 3rd & 4th Beaches; Aug. 31, 2010 - Owen Point),
Pomarine Jaeger (Oct. 29, 2006 - Owen Point),
American Three-toed Woodpecker (Nov. 12, 2006),
Glossy Ibis (Jun. 14-15, 2007 - constructed wetland at the corner of Harbour and Prince Edward Streets in SE Brighton),
Prothonotary Warbler (May 13, 2008),
Arctic Tern (May 22, 2008),
Common Eider (Sep. 21, 2011 - 2 at Owen Point/Gull Island).
Watch the ONTBIRDS listserv for regular weekly birding reports from Presqu'ile provided by local birder, Fred Helleiner. Much of the material used here is culled, over time, from those reports. Thanks from us all.
Clive Goodwin has a great new site on this area called Birds of Northumberland County. Checklists for Northhumberland County and Presqu'ile Provincial Park and a trail map for the park can be downloaded from this site. The Bird Checklist Presqu'ile Provincial Park is available at the park. Though not the newest, the 1986 4th edition (the latest I have) had 308 species listed and a very useful map of the park as a centrefold.
Other online resources for this site are the Presqu'ile Provincial Park and Friends of Presqu'ile websites.
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