Saturday, 26 November 2011

Rarities on the river

Razorbill - check!
American White Pelican - check!
Frankin's Gull - check! (x3)
California Gull - check!
Little Gull - check!

Needless to say, it was a great day birding Niagara with the University of Guelph wildlife club (our drinking club with a wildlife problem).

Our convoy of 27 enthusiastic gullers left Guelph shortly after 7 in the morning, and eventually we all arrived at Jack Custer's Bird Sanctuary near Niagara-on-the-Lake. The juvenile American White Pelican was sitting exactly where it was supposed to, hanging out in a pond that seemed much too small. What a cool bird to start the trip! After an extended photo session, we rounded up the troops and continued on.

American White Pelican - Niagara-on-the-Lake

American White Pelican - Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake was our next stop, and unfortunately it was pretty slow. Despite spending over an hour here, we couldn't wrangle up any Razorbills, jaegers, or other super-neat birds. A flock of 30+ Snow Buntings was nice to see, and of course there was the usual assortment of loons, grebes, and ducks. We continued on to Queenston.

Queenston was a decent spot with lots of gulls around to study. Many people in our group got looks at their lifer Little Gull, excellently spotted by Reuven Martin. A group of 5 Turkey Vultures began to kettle, but we couldn't locate any Black Vultures with them.

Fort Niagara

We arrived at the Adam Beck power plant somewhere after 11:00 and began studying the gulls. Meanwhile, Brett Fried, Erika Hentsch, David Bell, and Emily Rooks went to the "roosting rocks" just upriver to see if the Franklin's or California Gull were present. The rest of us managed to find a crisp looking juvenile Thayer's Gull, a fugly 2nd winter Lesser Black-backed Gull, and an adult Iceland Gull. The other four found the Franklin's, so off we went!

Fortunately for us it was still present when we arrived, but it took several of us (not me of course.....haha) an embarassingly long time to pick it out on the rocks. Unfortunately there was no California Gull at the time, so we continued to Chippewa to eat lunch.

The Upper Falls (viewed from several vantage points) was next on the agenda. While we didn't see anything super rare here, it was fun to study some of the ducks, including Hooded Merganser and Gadwall. Lots of gulls, but nothing out of the ordinary (save for a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls).

Great Black-backed Gull - Upper Falls

Mallard - Upper Falls

A Black-legged Kittiwake was being seen at the whirlpool (thanks for the heads-up, Barb!) but we were running a little late so we decided to skip the kittiwake to make one more run at the Razorbill at Niagara-on-the-Lake. A brief stop at Adam Beck was worthwhile as "Frank" was flying around with Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. It was nice to see some familiar faces here too, such as Kevin McLaughlin, Jean Iron, and Blake Mann. Brett texted me that they had the Razorbill at Niagara-on-the-Lake, but by the time my car came rolling in it was out of sight. A nice "consolation prize" was this beautiful intermediate-morph, juvenile Pomarine Jaeger! It chased Bonaparte's Gulls on several occasions, even getting one to spit out a fish, which it caught just before the fish hit the water. The photos definitely don't do it justice, but in the scope this bird was a thing of beauty. While scanning for the Razorbill, Brett and I caught several glimpses of it as it dove, but it was much too far out that no one else got on it. One of the flocks of Bonies heading to the river contained the Franklin's Gull, which circled several times, giving good views.

juvenile Pomarine Jaeger - Niagara-on-the-Lake

While most of the group left, Ken Burrell texted me that the California Gull was being seen at Adam Beck, so the remaining 5 of us booked it over there, arriving well after sunset, but with just enough light to see the gulls! Several birders were still there, and Jean Iron and Willie D'Anna got us on the Cali Gull.  What a fitting end to a great day on the river!


  1. A good weekend to be birding the river!
    I left Adam Beck just before the California Gull was seen! Story of my life!

  2. It certainly was a nice day on the river. Too bad you missed the California Gull!