Presqu'ile Waterfowl Festival


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Off to the Park…

When Judi and I first started visiting festivals and events, we considered going to the Presqu’ile Waterfowl Festival. For one reason or another, we never made it. That is until this year. I think the main catalysts for visiting this year were our friends, Barb and Laurence Stevenson. Barb is a dedicated birding enthusiast. When I mentioned that Judi and I were thinking of visiting the waterfowl festival and wondered if they wanted to join us, Barb’s eyes lite up! We made arrangements to pick them up on the following Saturday morning. It was a bright crisp morning when we left Cobourg. We traveled east on County Road 2, through Grafton and Colborne, until we reached Brighton. Judi and I had never been to Presqu’ile Provincial Park, so I followed Laurence and Barb’s directions. It was fairly simple and there were quite a number of directional signs to help us. At the Park gates we were greeted by Presqu’ile Waterfowl Festival volunteers. They sold us our $8 car pass and gave us literature about the Park and the Festival. They also told us that there were lots of birds to see! From the Park gates we followed the “DUCK” signs until we came to the Friends of Presqu’ile’s Gift Store and Interpretive Centre. It was now time to get out of the warm car and go and look for the “birds”!

The Presqu’ile Point Lighthouse…

We followed the sign, passed the Lighthouse Gift Shop and Interpretive Centre and headed towards Presqu’ile Point and its Lighthouse. This was to be our first observation area. We were a bit early, so there were not too many people there. The birds hadn’t arrived yet, either! There were only three lone Canada Geese floating on the Lake! We retreated to the warmth of the Gift Shop and Interpretive Centre. Inside we were greeted by Friends of Presqu’ile Park volunteer staff. The Gift Shop and Centre had been especially opened for the Presqu’ile Waterfowl Festival. We decided to take a look around. The first thing I noticed was a huge map of the Presqu’ile area. It dominated one wall! Next was the Friends Gift Shop. Barb was inside looking at the interesting Presqu’ile gifts and memorabilia. Beyond the Gift Shop was a separate room. It had been set up with kids’ activities. Two volunteers, Jasmine Cote and Adrienne Ockenden, stood waiting for the children and parents to arrive! Back in the main area I discovered a small room that housed the Centre’s maritime museum. The room was devoted to the area’s nautical history. After we had finished exploring the Centre, we asked one of the volunteers where we should head next. She suggested that we follow the signs to Calf Pasture Point. We took the winding road until we came to the next “duck” sign. We turned right and drove the short distance to the Point’s parking area. As we got out of the car, I looked south at the lake and much to my surprise and delight, I saw 3 swans swimming in the Point’s bay. I took out my binoculars to take a closer look. As I looked passed the swans, I saw hundreds of waterfowl floating on the bay! For me, the real Presqu'ile Waterfowl Festival had just started! We walked to the enclosed lookout shelter and climbed the steps into it. Here we were greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable Festival volunteer. The windows of the shelter were open and we had a clear view of the bay and a lot more birds. We peered out over the bay with our binoculars, pointing them in the directions suggested by the volunteer. The shear number of birds was staggering! A Bushnell telescope had been set up in the shelter and the volunteer suggested we take a look through it. The higher power of the telescope brought the images of the birds much closer. We all enthusiastically took our turn to become “up close and personal” with our feathered friends! The volunteer shared his knowledge with us about the birds we were witnessing, plus there were a number of informational posters attached to the walls about the birds. We talked with the volunteer for some time and then he suggested we walk down the road to another vantage point. He said the birds could be seen more clearly there and that other volunteers would be on hand to help us. We took his advice.

Of Ducks, Swans and Geese…

We walked down the road to the new vantage point. There were already several people there. A Festival volunteer had set up his telescope and was pointing out various birds of interest. This group was particularly interested in the rare sighting of an Eurasian Widgeon. We were invited to look through the telescope at this rare sighting! As I looked over the water, I was amazed at the number and variety of waterfowl we were seeing! It also amazed me that they all seemed to be living and thriving in harmony! Perhaps humans could learn a valuable lesson from the birds at Presqu’ile! We viewed the waterfowl scene before us for some time and then headed back to the car. While we were at our lookout area, Judi, without our knowing, had wandered off and found a better lookout. Better because she was the only one there and was able to take full advantage of the telescope and the knowledge of the volunteer! While she was there, she was able to take some great photographs! As we reached our vehicle, I noticed that more festival visitors had joined the Calf Pasture Point bird watching group! Several people had set up their own telescopes and were looking towards the bay at the scene unfolding before them. Once we had left the Point, we decided to explore one of the beach areas we had seen coming in. The beach areas were closed to vehicles, so we parked the car and walk the lane to Beach #2. We were the only ones there, although there were plenty of fresh footprints. We traversed the streams of water that had been left by the melting snow and made our way to waters edge! As I looked around the desolate beach, I imagined a bright sunny summer day and what it would look like then. It was a happy thought filled with laughter, volleyball players, swimmers and sandcastles! I was brought back to the present by the sound of seagulls. They were the only birds to be seen in the area! We walked back to the car. We had enjoyed the Presq'ile Waterfowl Festival, but it was lunch time and Laurence's stomach (mine too) was grumbling. There was a waterfront restaurant close by, so we drove to it. After a pleasant lunch, we decided that it was still too early to return home. Laurence and Barb were new to the area and hadn’t visited the County (Prince Edward County) yet. We left Brighton for the County and at Carrying Place joined the Loyalist Parkway. We headed south towards Wellington, Bloomfield and Picton. We even stopped to sightsee and shop along the way! It was one of those days that you wish would never end. Reality and time, however, took over and we headed back home! We had had a great day and looked forward to doing it again!