PRESQUE ISLE’S UNIQUE SPRING GUESTS – - Really off course – Just passing through -I guess I’ll stay the summer.May 7, 2012 11:11 am 4 Comments
Spring is the time of year when I wish I knew just a bit more about the birds that visit Presque Isle. You guessed it! I am not a certified birder. What is it they say? I know just enough to be dangerous. Every single year, I learn a bit more about the birds and add a few new birds to my personal list of favorites. Within the last few years, I have found that there is something refreshing in learning about a living creature so removed from my own day-to-day pursuits.
One important lesson I have learne is that in nature, birds perform daily chores just like our own, except with more unusual and sometimes entertaining variations. Spring’s migration at Presque Isle has always been a learning experience for me. Each year my birding friends seek to make me at least sound slightly intelligent when I talk about our feathered friends. They are, of course, only somewhat successful. For me, this spring has been great. I think I now can identify at least six new birds (A record for me). However, more important, I have been able to enjoy the birding side of this spring much more than in the past.
Presque Isle had three slightly unique visitors this spring. They have all been here before. In spite of this, most residents of Erie have only seen pictures of them. The visitors on the park this spring included a White Pelican, a few Great White Egrets and a bunch of Bonaparte’s Gulls. Thanks to my friend and photographer Brian Berchtold, I have wonderful photographs taken recently on the park of all of these. I hope you enjoy his great works.
Let’s talk a minute about the White Pelican that suddenly showed up on Presque Isle Bay. This is a very large bird that for some reason is a long way from his normal habitat. A Pelican can weigh between 18 and 28 pounds and have a wing span of eight feet or more. He uses his huge wings to commute large distances and exploit the thermals along ocean and lake shorelines. They feed mainly on fish and use their large throat pouch to catch and hold them. They are exceptionally strong swimmers and have short webbed feet. This year, and three years ago when I saw one, the Pelican took refuge in the western corner of Presque Isle Bay.
Each spring Presque Isle becomes a stopping off point for a number of Great Egrets. Some people call these wonderful birds Great White Egrets, White Herons, or White Egrets. They are a member of the heron family with pure white feathers all year long. For a large bird, they are quite graceful in flight. They are 3 to 3.5 feet in height and can weigh as much as 3 ¾ pounds. In their local habitat, they roost in mangrove branches and spend much of their time squabbling over perching positions. Their diet consists of fish, frogs, insects and even at times small mammals. A few of them stay the summer on the park, so keep an eye out for them when you visit.
The last bird I will talk about today is one that I have seen a number of times, yet had no idea exactly what it was. I knew it was a gull of some sort, but seemed awfully small. It is the Bonaparte’s Gull. No, it is not named after Napoleon. It was, however, named for his nephew who was a zoologist.
The Bonaparte is a small gull, larger only than the Little Gull and the Saunders Gull. The mature gull has a black head and short black bill with bright orange legs. Its color is white to a very light grey. Unlike other gulls, the Bonaparte is not a scavenger. Some of these birds will most likely stay the summer, but most will move on to the Niagara River area. They gather by the thousands along this river. They are a very interesting bird.
Spring on Presque Isle is always a haven for the birds. It is really worth it, to take the time to slowly walk the trails and paths, relax a bit and see a whole new world on the park. Buying a pocket bird book will help you identify the birds you might see.
See you on the park!!
This post was written by admin