Thousands of shorebirds dropped out of the sky May 21st and 22nd and landed on Presqu’ile Beach. With 3000+ birds present, beach access was restricted to minimize disturbance to the birds as they feed. This restriction follows the park’s new Beach and Dune Implementation Resource Management Plan. Beach access restrictions vary depending on the number of birds. In general, beach parking lots are closed, signs explaining the closure are erected and staff/volunteers patrol the edge of the shore.
Shorebirds are particularly targeted in this protocol for a number of reasons. These birds, which most people call sandpipers, are extreme distance flyers. Most species winter in southern South America and migrate north every spring to nest in Canada’s arctic. Presqu’ile is well known as one of the most important stopping points in southern Ontario for shorebirds.
Over 40 different species have been known to take part in Presqu’ile’s beach smorgasbord, and flocks into the thousands have been recorded. Such large flocks usually set down in Presqu’ile in late May- early June as they head north, and occasionally in the fall between late August and October as they return. For several years Presqu’ile has been managing the beach so that the south end is more attractive to shorebirds and the north end more attractive for people so that both groups may enjoy the sandy shoreline.
Unfortunately shorebird numbers have been dropping over the last few decades and one species, the Red Knot, was added to the Endangered Species list in 2008. The park’s new Beach and Dune Management Plan gives shorebirds a little extra protection during a very vulnerable period of their life cycle.
If you would like more information on Presqu’ile, shorebirds or the Beach and Dune Management Plan please contact the park at 613 475 4324.