On the north shore of Lake Ontario, marshes and forests that host three world-class migration events every year.
By David Bree | Published: 4/22/2013
I never want to miss the three annual world-class migration events that happen at this park.
In mid-March, Presqu’ile Bay is a major staging area for waterfowl. Thousands of birds of up to 20 species can be seen in a single day. I’ve been hooked since 1985, when I first watched rafts of scaup, Redhead, Canvasback, and other ducks bobbing in the bright sun at the edge of the melting ice.
May is great for passerines, and 20-warbler days are not uncommon. Near the lakeshore, leafout comes late, allowing easier viewing than at inland sites. My most memorable sightings include Connecticut and Hooded Warblers and Blue Grosbeak.
Large numbers of shorebirds pass through in late May and early June, but it may be the autumn shorebird migration that Presqu’ile is best known for. The birds move through from mid-August into November; early September is best. The variety is astounding. Twenty-five species are annual, and 41 have been seen through the years. The great thing about Presqu’ile is that the mixed flocks of shorebirds are often quite close, allowing birders a leisurely, close look to sort out all the peeps. — David Bree
David Bree is a naturalist at Presqu’ile Provincial Park and has birded the park for nearly 30 years. He also studies dragonflies, butterflies, and moths.
At a Glance
Click on coordinates below to view map:
Marsh, deciduous and coniferous forests, sand and cobblestone beaches, old field, sand dune, interdunal slacks (pannes).
Flat. Paved parking lots and roadways.
337 species; about 230 are annual. March: Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Eurasian Wigeon (rare but nearly annual). May: Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Magnolia, Cape May, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, and Palm Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Dunlin. Summer: Marsh Wren, American Bittern, Pied-billed Grebe, Caspian and Common Terns, Mute Swan. Fall: Baird’s and Stilt Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Red Knot, Sanderling. November-December: Purple Sandpiper. Winter: Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Snowy and Barred Owls.
When to go
Two visitor centers open daily in summer, and one is open weekends from late May to early October. Year-round bird board for recording sightings. Marsh boardwalk with two viewing towers. Wheelchair-accessible blinds. Guided bird walks in mid-March, Victoria Day weekend in May, and Labor Day weekend. Vault toilets throughout the year; flush toilets from late April to October. Camping available late April to early October (www.ontarioparks.ca).
Provincial park. Open year-round 7-10. Car permit required for entry: $14 May to October, $10.75 October to May.
Dress warm and in layers when venturing out to look for shorebirds and for winter birding.
For more info
Sandbanks Provincial Park
One hour east of Presqu’ile on Cty. Rd. 18. Extensive dune system. Good spot for spring migration and breeding Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and Grasshopper Sparrow. Raptor migration in fall.
Prince Edward Point
Two hours east of Presqu’ile at the end of Long Point Rd. On a peninsula that juts into Lake Ontario; superb for spring passerine migration. Home of Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory.