Tuesday, 10 January 2017

More early January birding

On January 2nd I headed to the Whirlpool with Jeremy and Henrique in hopes of seeing the Black-headed Gull. Rich Poort, Mourad Jabra and Josh Niewenhuis were already staking out the gull's favorite feeding ground on the river, and had actually seen the bird prior to our arrival. Henrique soon picked it out in flight but for some reason Jeremy and I were not able to lock on to it - the bright sunlight creating harsh shadows certainly did not help! Eventually I had to pull myself away as I had plans to ski with my siblings (it's not often that the three of us are in the same country!). Of course, it just so happened that everyone else was treated to decent views of the Slaty-backed Gull later in the morning, as well as the Black-headed. Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes! I was happy to find a Northern Shrike before meeting up with my siblings, as well as two Cackling Geese with hoardes of Canada Geese near Milton.

The following morning, Henrique and I headed straight for the whirlpool to look for the Black-headed Gull and within minutes of our arrival he picked it out in flight over the rapids near the entrance to the whirlpool. A juvenile Thayer's Gull was also flying around, providing pretty decent views. I did not try photographing the Black-headed Gull this time; the following are photos I took of it back on December 10, 2016. Taking photos of birds at the Whirlpool is far from easy, due to the distance, the angle, the numbers of similar looking birds, and the difficulties in getting an in-focus photograph at such a distance (the water is a much easier target for my camera's sensor than the tiny white specks I am hoping it will focus on).

Black-headed Gull - Whirlpool, Niagara River (December 10, 2016)

Black-headed Gull - Whirlpool, Niagara River (December 10, 2016)

The Adam Beck power plants provided us with good views of another Thayer's Gull, as well as several Kumlien's Gulls and two intermediate Kumlien's/Thayer's types.  We continued on to the Upper Falls and spent a good bit of time here, however the Slaty-backed Gull refused to show. The weather conditions (light rain) certainly did not help matters!

At Dufferin Islands, Jeremy met up with us and we encountered the male Pine Warbler with its usual posse of several Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice and a Red-breasted Nuthatch, providing a welcome splash of colour on the dull gray day.

My plan the following day was to drive to Long Point to search for the long-staying Smith's Longspur. I had already viewed it earlier in December (the day after it was found), but I was looking forward to another encounter with this species, a difficult one to see well. A group of birders was already here waiting for the longspur to appear, but they had been without luck since dawn. While we waited, a few other birds could be seen here and there. Several raptors including a few Northern Harriers were in the area, and we was surprised when a young Golden Eagle suddenly appeared over the fields to the south. The views were fantastic as the bird soared overhead, holding its wings in a slight dihedral. It was a little distant for great photos, but "record" photos were easy to obtain. I think this is only the second Golden Eagle I've ever seen during the winter.

Golden Eagle - Concession A, Long Point

The longspur was still nowhere to be seen and one by one the other birders gave up, getting into their vehicles to continue on with their day. I still had some time before I had to call it quits fortunately, and sure enough the longspur finally appeared on the roadside!

Smith's Longspur - Concession A, Long Point

While wary of quick movements, the longspur was quite cooperative if one moved slowly and methodically to get into position to take photos. I lay on the road, trying to obtain a nice low angle for my photos. The lighting was a bit dull, but I am happy with how they turned out.

Smith's Longspur - Concession A, Long Point


Smith's Longspur - Concession A, Long Point

Smith's Longspur - Concession A, Long Point

Smith's Longspur - Concession A, Long Point

Smith's Longspur - Concession A, Long Point

I am glad I went back for a second look at the Smith's Longspur, as I may never have such great views of this species every again. Definitely a cool experience!

4 comments: