Monday, 5 December 2011

What a day on the Niagara River

Yesterday I spent the entire day birding the Niagara River with Brett Fried and Reuven Martin. The rarest birds in Ontario right now include Black Vulture, Razorbill, Slaty-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, California Gull, etc. THey all happen to be at the Niagara River now too!

We arrived at the Control Gates bright and early but failed to see the adult Slaty-backed Gull that was found by Kevin yesterday. I did spot an interesting gull mid-river and got Reuven and Brett on it. It showed all the characteristics of an adult California Gull. Also seen here were our first Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed (2 1st winter, 1 adult, 1 3rd winter), and Great Black-backed Gulls. There was also an interesting bird I observed briefly that had the mantle color of a California Gull but with pink legs and a light eye (hybrid perhaps?). 3 female Harlequin Ducks (as opposed to the 2 seen previous days) were hanging out on the breakwall as well.

Photo of Harlequin ducks to be posted here

Moving down the river, we stopped at the whirlpool to look for the Kittiwake. No luck there, so we continued on to Adam Beck. Here, we had great looks at an adult Thayer's-type gull, as well as our first Kumlien's Gulls of the day. We were up to 8 species of gulls for the day. After hearing reports that the Kittiwake was back at the Whirlpool, we hurried over and had great looks as it circled with the bonies. I couldn't believe the size difference between the two species!

Photo of the the kittiwake will be posted here

Sometime later that morning we headed back to the Upper Falls, and immediately got on a darker mantled gull that had all the field marks of the adult Slaty-backed Gull. A group of birders nearby, including some very good gullwatchers, had the bird much closer and confirmed its identity of the Slaty-backed Gull. Two 1st cycle Glaucous gulls were also present.

I was surprised to spot the Purple Sandpiper on the traditional rocks near the barge. It had jammed itself into a tiny crevice and was nearly impossible to see!

With 11 gull species under our belt, we headed back downriver to search for Franklin's and Little. Franklin's was no problem, as it was sitting in "the usual spot" at the roosting rocks, just upriver at Adam Beck. We only needed Little for a 13-gull day!

We skipped Queenston and headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake to search the Bonaparte's Gulls that would be flying past. Eventually they started streaming by, and the OFO group also stopped by. We managed to get 3 adult Little Gulls go past - 13 gulls for the day! As far as I am aware the adult California gull was only seen by a few other parties throughout the day.
By the way, no luck with the Razorbill or Black Vultures, though both were seen on the day.

Another great day at the river!

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