Presqu’ile is expecting company this May long weekend

Thousands of migratory birds set to delight during Warblers and Whimbrels 2014
 

As sure as the sun rises, Presqu’ile Provincial Park is once again playing host to thousands of tired, hungry songbirds and shorebirds as they pass through the Brighton area on their way towards their forest and Arctic summer homes via the welcoming peninsulas and treelines of one of Ontario’s best migratory hot spots. 

Although some birds will trickle through Presqu’ile after the waterfowl arrive in March, the second big wave of migration happens in May.  Presqu’ile celebrates this event with its annual Warblers and Whimbrels Festival.  The festival, which takes place during the May long weekend every year, is one of the coolest things about spring in this part of the province.

“Presqu’ile is a bit of a magnet for these migratory birds because of the geography, the habitat and the way the park sticks out into Lake Ontario,” says David Bree, park naturalist at Presqu’ile.  “These birds are on a very long journey and crossing the Great Lakes is very difficult for the smaller songbirds, depending on the winds, so they love to stop and feed and rest in these little points that jut out into the water.  Shorebirds on the other hand are incredible flyers and come here to feed and rest during their long journey to the Arctic.”

 

Dunlins gather at Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

  Continue reading Presqu’ile is expecting company this May long weekend

Friends of Ontario Parks

The next time you walk the boardwalk at Presqu’ile Provincial Park or attend the Huron Fringe Birding Festival at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, thank a Friend. 

Friends of Ontario Parks are not-for-profit, charitable organizations full of dedicated volunteers. These volunteers usually hail from a nearby community or they’ve camped in a park that they’ve grown to love and respect. Today, there are 27 not-for-profit Friends organizations dedicated to enhancing the educational, recreational, research and resource protection mandates of the parks they are affiliated with.

If you want to become a Friends volunteer at your favourite park, contact a Friends group directly. But if your park doesn’t have a Friends group and you are interested in starting one, speak to your local park superintendent.   http://www.ontarioparks.com/partnerships/

Some of Ontario Parks’ best events are organized by Friends. Here are two you won’t want to miss in 2014:

Continue reading Friends of Ontario Parks

Discover ice volcanoes and wintering waterfowl at Presqu’ile this winter!

Guest Blogger: David Bree
Sr. Natural Heritage Education Leader
 Presqu’ile Provincial Park
 

When thinking of visiting parks, most people picture swimming at the beach, walking sun-dabbled forest trails or perhaps just relaxing in front of the tent or trailer while the BBQ warms up.  These are all decidedly summery, warm-weather activities, and only a part of a park’s story.  You need to experience the other seasons to really get to know your favourite park.  While winter camping may not be for everyone (some of our parks offer great winter-camping experiences) anyone can appreciate a day visit to a park in winter.

Although campgrounds in Presqu’ile Provincial Park close at Thanksgiving, the park is open to day-use all year, with car access right to Lake Ontario.  Winter, in many ways, is the most dramatic season at the park as the lake and sky above offer an endlessly changing face.  Water may be blue, green, gray or some unnamed combination of these colours.  It may be mirror-flat or have 3-metre waves rolling into shore.  No matter the violence of the lake, winter waterfowl, such as Long-tailed Ducks, will be bobbing amongst the waves, seemingly unconcerned with either the freezing temperatures or the crashing waves.

Long-tailed duck spotted off the shore of Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

Fresh snow provides its own fascination.  In addition to providing the stuff of traditional winter activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or building snowmen, it also provides nature with a parchment to record its stories on.  Creatures almost never seen, leave their tracks behind to be read; a Meadow Vole coming above the snow for a few dangerous metres to investigate a food source before disappearing back into a snowy tunnel; a Fisher patrolling the shoreline, hoping for a meal; small birds hopping around the grass heads poking above the snow, with only some chaff scattered to indicate theseeds that were consumed.  Occasionally something very dramatic can be found: a fox chasing a hare, or a depression, flanked by the trace of wingtips where an owl crashed into the snow to try and get at that Meadow Vole.  These stories are ephemeral however, gone with the next melt, strong wind, or snowfall, a clean canvas for the next chapter.

 

But it is the shoreline that continues to draw me back.  Lake Ontario almost never freezes over, and where there is open water there will be wildlife in the form of ducks, gulls, or maybe I’ll finally spot that elusive Fisher!  Even though the lake doesn’t freeze over, there can still be ice.  Ice floes sparkling in the sun with rafts of Goldeneye and Scaup diving between them is a sight that never fails to inspire me.  And sometimes, when conditions are just right – we get volcanoes!  When it gets cold enough, ice starts building up along the shoreline as an ice shelf.  If the temperature, wind direction and wave height is right, the gentling sloping limestone just offshore funnels waves under the ice shelf and up through it at a weak point.  This results in a blowhole type phenomenon, with icy water spewing up into the air through the ice.  This water falls back down and freezes, eventually building up a cone through which the water continues to erupt.  A volcano! An ice volcano!  But ice volcanoes can be shorter-lived than snow tracks.  The ice shelf builds out or the waves decrease and the water can no longer make it up and through the volcano.  It goes extinct, no longer spouting water.  While live volcanoes can be hard to see, Presqu’ile’s winter shoreline is often ringed by an icy field of extinct volcanoes, their hollow cones pointing to the winter sky, waiting to erupt again.

Ice Volcano observed along the shore of Presqu’ile Provincial Park (Photo Credit: D. Tyerman).

 

Whether you are lucky enough to find a live volcano or a Fisher track, Presqu’ile’s winter landscape will hold some exciting discovery for those that seek to know her winter face.

 

Planning your visit:

  • Overwintering waterfowl: can be seen throughout the winter
  • Ice Volcanoes:  best seen in February
  • Skiing and tracking: Conditions vary.  Contact park office for conditions: 613 475-4324
 
Please note:
Cleanup from the recent winter weather events is still ongoing.  Please use caution when driving and walking around the park.
 

Three Redpolls, two Gray Jays and a Chickadee in a Pine tree

Now in its 114th year, the Christmas Bird Count is a bird census that occurs across North America between December 14 and January 5.  The count is administered by the National Audubon Society who partners with Bird Studies Canada.  The North American count is made up of regional counts, each run over a 24-hour period and within a 24 kilometre diameter circle.  These counts are conducted by volunteer birders who set out, binoculars in hand, to track species and numbers of birds either seen or heard throughout the day.  The submitted results contribute to a data set more than a century old that provides information on the long-term health of bird populations across the continent.

The noisy Blue Jay is often seen (and heard) on Christmas Bird Counts. (Photo Credit: Mike Burrell)

There are counts going on across the province, but here are details for a few of the counts occurring in Ontario Parks:

  Continue reading Three Redpolls, two Gray Jays and a Chickadee in a Pine tree

Witness the phenomenon of fall migration in Ontario Parks

Guest blogger: David Bree
Sr. Natural Heritage Education Leader
Presqu’ile Provincial Park

 

 Migration is a miracle of nature that has fascinated humans since… well since forever.  Where do these creatures come from? Where do they go?  How do they know when to leave?  Many of those questions have been answered over the years but there are still many mysteries to uncover.  September is the height of fall migration, and with great weather, smaller crowds, and many parks still open it’s a great time to do some migrating of your own and go out to witness this phenomenon. Continue reading Witness the phenomenon of fall migration in Ontario Parks

2013 March Break events at Ontario Parks

Every March, the sap flows from trees and birds begin their journey north making pit stops at parks along the lower Great Lakes.  The weather is milder allowing for more outdoor play. Special March Break events for 2013 are planned in many Ontario Parks including a maple syrup festival, a fun cross-country ski touring event and two big birding festivals. Guided hikes and natural heritage activities are planned for March weekends in select Ontario Parks across the province. Continue reading 2013 March Break events at Ontario Parks

Introducing the Trails of Presqu’ile Provincial Park

Dunes, panes, beaches, old growth forest and a beautiful lighthouse! Presqu’ile Provincial Park has several different habitats and a very exciting storied past. The best way to discover Presqu’ile is to experience the environment and walk through where past events took place! Continue reading Introducing the Trails of Presqu’ile Provincial Park