Let the Pilgrimage Begin!

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.

Chaucer~The Canterbury Tales-Prologue

Finally, we can climb out of our caves, stretch our aching minds and bodies and revel in nature’s splendor on our pilgrimage through Presque Isle!   Yes, I’m mixing metaphors, convention be damned.  But, as so often happens, I digress…

Saturday, April 3rd was the first day of bird ID classes at PISP:)  and what a beautiful day it was!  While our morning started with a little chill in the wind, it wasn’t long before we were all taking of f our jackets and rolling up our sleeves.  The following is an excerpt from Jerry’s report on the days’ sightings and observations:

The nice warm southerly wind and temperatures in the 70′s made for a perfect day for bird migration. Participating in the class today were Marcy, Joao and Delores, Linda, Jean, and Michele,  Blackbirds were streaming overhead as well as Turkey Vultures. Our first stop was the Great Horned Owls nest where we saw one of the birds sitting down inside the cavity of the tree with just the top of its head showing.  We walked B-trail in search of saw-whets and long-eareds but found none, though we did have decent looks at a Hermit Thrush.  Pine Tree Trail had some activity where we saw a Brown Snake and our first Golden-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers for the day.  In fact we ended up seeing many sapsuckers, both male and female.  There were lots of Brown Creepers as well, especially at Fry’s landing where we found a Fox Sparrow scratching on the ground.  Beach 11 was kind of quiet though we did witness vultures flying across Thompson Bay inlet from Gull Point to get back to the mainland by crossing the channel.  Since we saw several sharp-shinned Hawks overhead we decided it was time to head for the hawkwatch where we immediately saw vultures and hawks streaming by on their way north.

This week was peak migration for Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers (Don't ya love that name)!

We recorded the following 53 species of birds this morning:
Canada Goose–a couple off beach 11
Mute Swan– a pair off vista 1
Tundra Swan–two in Thompson Bay
Wood Duck–we flushed a pair out of a tree off B-trail
Mallard–a couple of quacking birds heard
Northern Pintail–two females flying over Thompson Bay
Ring-necked Duck– a handful of distant birds in the back of Thompson Bay
Great Scaup–several off beach 11
Lesser Scaup–several off beach 11
Bufflehead–a few off beach 11
Red-breasted Merganser–a few at beach 11 with a few small flocks overhead
Wild Turkey–Michele saw one not far from Peninsula Drive
Double-crested Cormorant– a small flying flock past the owl nest site and a flock flying past the hawkwatch
Turkey Vulture–all you had to do was look up to see these big birds
Osprey–one over the hawkwatch
Northern Harrier–a couple over the hawkwatch
Sharp-shinned Hawk–many overhead on the park and at the hawkwatch
Cooper’s Hawk–two or three overhead on the park and at the hawkwatch
Red-tailed Hawk–several over the hawkwatch
Rough-legged Hawk–one over the hawkwatch
American Kestrel–a couple over the hawkwatch
Killdeer–one over beach 11 and a couple over the hawkwatch
American Woodcock–one flushed from Fry’s landing
Bonaparte’s Gull–about eight over Thompson Bay
Ring-billed Gull–a few at various places
Herring Gull–a few over the bay off vista 2 and off beach 11 and the hawkwatch
Great Black-backed Gull–a dozen or so off vista 1 and beach 11
Mourning Dove–singles at various places on the park
Great Horned Owl–one on the nest
Belted Kingfisher–one over beach 11
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker–at least 10 from three sites, Pine Tree and Dead Pond trails, and Fry’s landing
Downy Woodpecker–one at Fry’s landing
Northern Flicker–several throughout
Eastern Phoebe–singles at Fry’s landing and Dead Pond Trail
Blue Jay–a couple on Pine Tree Trail
American Crow–several throughout
Tree Swallow–several overhead at all sites
Black-capped Chickadee–two or three at Fry’s landing
Brown Creeper–several along all trails

One of many brown creepers we saw all over the park.

Golden-crowned Kinglet–several along the trails
Hermit Thrush–one off B-trail and one at Fry’s landing
American Robin–many everywhere
European Starling– a few overhead
Yellow-rumped Warbler–one seen briefly at Fry’s landing
Eastern Towhee– a few heard calling along the trails
Chipping Sparrow–one in the beach 11 parking lot

A handsome chipping sparrow framed in pine.

Fox Sparrow–one at Fry’s landing
Song Sparrow–several throughout
Dark-eyed Junco–many along the trails, especially at Fry’s landing
Red-winged Blackbird–many migrants overhead
Common Grackle–many migrants overhead
Brown-headed Cowbirds–mainly mixed in with the blackbird flocks
American Goldfinch– a couple overhead at the hawkwatch
~~Jerry McWilliams (Instructor)

A male Downy Woodpecker. Check out the band on his leg.

Speaking of banding…bird banding will begin on the park in mid-April.  Check out the PI Bird Banding blog for details about the upcoming season and how to volunteer or just stop by and observe.

Another shot of a male yellow-bellied sapsucker. Note the red on his throat, which distinguishes him from the female whose throat is generally white.


  1. Jerry McWilliams

    Hey Michele,

    Great blog, excellent pics, and thanks for including my class! I was hoping to take everyone to see a long-eared Owl yesterday, but it flushed from its day roost and became very skittish after that.

  2. Jean Joyce

    Thanks, Michele, for your creative work and great pics.

  3. Terry Lobdell

    Beautiful pictures Michele!

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