Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

by Mary Robinson

Even though the forecast was bleak and calling for weather “good for ducks”, nine avid MVFN birders set out early Saturday morning, March 25, 2017 to Presqu’ile Provincial Park for the annual Waterfowl Weekend.  Fortunately, the late forecast changed, and except for a brief drizzle the weather cooperated wonderfully.

Migrating ducks and geese need time to rest and feed in the sheltered areas of the Park before they move on to more northern and western nesting grounds, while Mute Swans tend to breed in the Presqu’ile area.  Since most of the ice is now gone from Lake Ontario, the birds were sometimes far from shore and the four spotting scopes on the trip were very much in use.  Howard Robinson, our group leader, ensured that we had sufficient time in each of the nine favourite viewing stations, including time for a lunch break at the Lighthouse on Presqu’ile Point.

Approximately 1,300 Redheads were the most prevalent duck of the day, with about 260 Ring-necked Ducks and 200 Greater Scaup being the next most common duck sightings.  Aptly-named Gull Island, off Owen Point, was home to approximately 400 Ring-billed Gulls and 150 Herring Gulls.   A Downy Woodpecker, frozen in place for well over a minute on the side of a bird-feeder was an unusual sight for most of us, but it is known behaviour for this species when there is a predator about.  Excellent views of a mature Bald Eagle hunting low over the water at the Calf Pasture impressed us all.  Sure signs of spring were the song of a Song Sparrow, and the sighting of a Turkey Vulture soaring low over the town of Brighton.  Other highlights included Green-winged Teals, Long-tailed Ducks, one Great Black-backed Gull, and a raft of mixed ducks “escorting” a single Mute Swan, although in total we saw 32 Mute Swans.

At the end of the day, the total number of species seen collectively by the group was forty-seven, as listed below.  Some of us spotted birds on the car trip to and from Presqu’ile, but only those species exceptional to the Park are noted separately.  All in all, it was an excellent outing and well worth the trip, especially if one wants to hone  identification skills and knowledge of waterfowl.  Special thanks to Peter Blancher and Michel Gauthier for their expertise and advice with the species list.

Presqu’ile Provincial Park/nearby viewing stations

1    American Black Duck
2    American Crow
3    American Robin
4    American Wigeon
5    Bald Eagle
6    Black-capped Chickadee
7    Blue Jay
8    Bufflehead
9    Canada Goose
10  Canvasback
11  Common Goldeneye
12  Common Grackle
13  Common Merganser
14  Downy Woodpecker
15  Great Black-backed Gull
16  Great Blue Heron
17  Greater Scaup
18  Green-winged Teal
19  Hairy Woodpecker
20  Herring Gull
21  Hooded Merganser
22  House Sparrow
23  Lesser Scaup
24  Long-tailed duck
25  Mallard
26  Mourning Dove
27  Mute Swan
28  Northern Cardinal
29  Red-breasted Merganser
30  Red-breasted Nuthatch
31  Redhead
32  Red-winged Blackbird
33  Ring-billed Gull
34  Ring-necked Duck
35  Song Sparrow
36  White-breasted Nuthatch
37  White-winged Scoter
38  Wood Duck

En-route (to and from Brighton, ON)

39  American Kestrel

40  American Goldfinch

41  Common Raven

42  European Starling

43  Red-tailed Hawk

44  Rock pigeon

45  Rough-legged Hawk

46  Turkey Vulture

47  Wild Turkey




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Experience thousands of waterfowl plus many land birds which gather in Presqu’ile Bay and off the lighthouse point around the Park, getting ready to move inland to breed. There are usually over 20 different species of birds in and around the water.  Our expedition coincides with the 41st Annual Presqu’ile Waterfowl Weekend sponsored by the Friends of Presqui’ile Provincial Park.  

Date:  Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time/Car-pooling: Almonte and area, meet at Union Hall for departure by 7:30 a.m.; Perth area meet at Glen Tay Public School for departure by 8:00 a.m.

Bring: Lunch, hot beverage, binoculars, and spotting scope if you have one. Have extra clothes ready for cool, windy weather.

There is a $10.00/vehicle park entrance feePark passes will be honoured for entry.  We should be back home by about 6 p.m.

You must pre-register for this event.

For further information and to register for this outing, please contact Howard & Mary Robinson, 613-256-0817, or email

In case of severe weather, the trip will be cancelled. If in doubt, please call Howard or Mary before 7 a.m. to confirm.

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The 2016 Waterfowl Migration at Presqu’ile Provincial Park

During the spring migration, tens of thousands of swans, geese and ducks stop in the sheltered areas of Presqu’ile Provincial Park to rest and feed before moving on to nesting grounds further north and west.  Eight MVFN birders set out early on Saturday morning, March 19, 2016 to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to experience the annual waterfowl migration.  Our leader, Cliff Bennett, set a goal of 45 species, but some of us looked rather dubiously around Lanark County with its patchy snow and frozen lakes thinking that this time he really has set the bar too high.

When we arrived in Presqui’ile Park, however, we found it bright and sunny with the ice all but melted and the snow gone.   While this made for a warmer day down on Lake Ontario than on previous MVFN trips, the birding for waterfowl was more challenging as they were far out in the bay areas.  The spotting scopes were very useful for good sightings.

The Park was busier this year than on previous trips too, since it was the 40th Anniversary of Presqu’ile’s Waterfowl Weekend.  This event is hosted by the Park’s staff and the Friends of Presqu’ile Provincial Park volunteers who had set up feeders for the land birds and spotting scopes at prominent viewing stations.  They kindly provided information on what birds could be seen for novice birders and the children.

One memorable favourite was to see the Long-tailed Ducks.  This particular duck usually bypasses the Ottawa region as it migrates to Northern Canada and the Arctic.  Another exceptional sighting was thousands of ducks (mainly redheads) taking to the skies as we watched in awe. Closer to the shores were many Mute Swans gracefully swimming and preening themselves for a photo.  On the island from Owen Point we were delighted to see a Snowy Owl and a Great Black-backed Gull among the many hundreds of other birds.

IMG_5807 Mary and Anita inside a blind

Mary Robinson and Anita Payne in a bird blind. Photo by Howard Robinson.

At the end of the day, our group tally for the number of species seen in the Park and en route included 46 species.  So we even managed to surpass Cliff’s goal, thanks to the sharp eyes of the expert birders in our group.  The list of species seen on the day follows.  Afterwards, Pete Blancher reported that only one bird was flagged by eBird as seasonally rare – and that was the Double-crested Cormorant which was apparently about a week early for the area.

Species Seen En Route and at Presqu’ile Provincial Park

  1. American Crow
  2. European Starling
  3. Canada Goose
  4. American Robin
  5. Red-winged Blackbird
  6. Rock Pigeon
  7. American Tree Sparrow
  8. Blue Jay
  9. Northern Cardinal
  10. Wild Turkey
  11. Ring-billed Gull
  12. Red-Tailed Hawk
  13. Bald Eagle
  14. Common Goldeneye
  15. Mallard
  16. Common Raven
  17. Mourning Dove
  18. Common Grackle
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Black-capped Chickadee
  21. American Wigeon
  22. Redhead
  23. Bufflehead
  24. Ring-necked Duck
  25. Mute Swan
  26. Downy Woodpecker
  27. Pied-billed Grebe
  28. Common Merganser
  29. Long-tailed Duck
  30. Herring Gull
  31. Song Sparrow
  32. White-breasted Nuthatch
  33. House Sparrow
  34. House Finch
  35. American Goldfinch
  36. Canvasback
  37. Greater Scaup
  38. Brown Creeper
  39. Hairy Woodpecker
  40. Snowy Owl
  41. Greater Black-backed Gull
  42. American Black Duck
  43. Double-crested Cormorant
  44. Cooper’s Hawk
  45. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  46. American Kestrel

– submitted by Howard and Mary Robinson


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March 31, 2015

Ducks galore at Presqu’ile viewed by MVFN group

As the ice recedes in Presqu’ile Bay on the north shore of Lake Ontario, thousands of migrating ducks move in to await our northern lakes becoming free of ice, so they can move into their breeding homes. A small group of Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) members and friends journeyed to Presqu’ile Provincial Park on March 28th to view this natural spectacle, and they weren’t disappointed.

The MVFN outing, led by MVFN President Cliff Bennett has become an annual event for the club. From the various viewing stands, the group was able to see fourteen different species of waterfowl including a single white-winged scoter, a single American coot, and redhead and canvasback ducks by the hundreds. There were also dozens of long-tailed ducks and thousands of greater scaup, buffleheads and golden-eye ducks.  Dozens of mute swans dotted the whole bay and herring gulls picked up various bits of debris along the ice edge.

As well as ducks and other waterfowl, the group observed several raptors, including a red-shouldered hawk, a harrier, and a pair of kestrels, several red – tailed hawks, and a Cooper ’s hawk. Spring arrivals included red-winged blackbirds, grackles, American woodcock, turkey vultures and robins.  In total, the group tallied forty-five species in all for the day’s viewing.

Viewing so many ducks in one area is often quite revealing as one sees them in breeding colours and observes distinctive courting activities. A particularly active scene was demonstrated by a pair of mute swans; the female was completely submerged in the water by the male for at least ten seconds, followed by an intimate rubbing together of necks.

As spring weather approaches, there are many upcoming events being organized by MVFN’s active birding committee. The next of these are the popular spring Early Morning Bird Walks. This series will take place on 4 Wednesdays: April 8, 15, 22 and 29. For information on these events check the MVFN website at Other MVFN events in April include the Alvar Pub Night Friday, April 10 to raise funds to support the Burnt Lands Alvar Campaign, and an MVFN Members Night and AGM which will take place on Thursday, April 16.



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Annual Duck Migration Presqu’ile Provincial Park

Join us in viewing the annual huge duck migration staging area at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Brighton, on Lake Ontario. Tens of thousands of ducks of over twenty species, gather in the park bay prior to taking off north to their breeding grounds.

 Sunday, March 14, 2010

(NOTE NEW DATE: This event was originally scheduled for March 28 but the ice in the bay is melting sooner than expected. As the ice goes, so go the ducks)

 Car Pooling: East Lanark: Meet at Union Hall, corner of County Roads 16 and 9 for departure by 7:30 A.M. West Lanark: Meet at Balderson Cheese Outlet, Balderson, for departure for 8:00 A.M.

Bring: lunch, binoculars, spotting scopes if available. Dress warmly for lake winds are cool.

Wear:  good walking shoes for we will walk at least one trail.

 This event is go, rain or shine, sleet, hail or snow (unless we have a sudden great blizzard).

 Please pre-register with Cliff Bennett  at 613-256-5013 or .

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