Monday 26 November 2012

Niagara weekend results

The last two days I spent in the Niagara region, checking out the gull action on the Niagara River. The river is always a fun time - lots of birds, good company, and usually some interesting or rare birds. This weekend was no different, even though we finished far short of the record of 14 gull species in one day!

On Saturday, I tagged along with the Kitchener Waterloo Field Naturalists on their annual trip, along with fellow Ontario bird-bloggers Alvan, Ken, and Mike. The weather was reasonable and we were excited for a day on the river.

En route, we made a couple of stops to check out the duck action in Hamilton. The only location of note was the end of Green's Road, where we saw the continuing 1st winter male King Eider along with a female that only a couple of us were able to see.

We continued on to Niagara-on-the-lake, of Razorbill fame from last autumn (and several other RAZOs in past years). There was no little black-and-white alcid present today, however. The highlight here was probably a Red-throated Loon which was nice and close.

At Queenston, we had several Turkey Vultures but none of the hoped for Blacks. There were an adult and 2nd-winter Little Gull flying around downstream of the docks, however.

Adam Beck was rather dull, though we did find the Franklin's Gulls at the roosting rocks after a tense 3 seconds of not being able to find it. I think it was one of the first birds I looked at.

We then continued on to the Pumphouse and the Control Gates, easily the highlight of the day for me. Of particular interest was the adult Thayer's Gull that was flying around, giving us point blank looks in beautiful light as it flew around and occasionally landed on the water. Sweet! We also had a number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, including an adult that was close enough that I couldn't resist the urge to "phone-scope" it.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Niagara River

This gull was a bit of a head-scratcher, though I believe it is most likely a Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull (we had two hybrids that day). Also at the same spot were 4 swallows feeding over the river which appeared to be Northern Rough-winged Swallows. My latest date for this species!

hybrid gull - Niagara River

Yesterday (Sunday), I returned with the University of Guelph Wildlife Club - always a good time! We checked out many of the same places and saw some of the same birds. As a group we had 9 species of gulls, though we completely missed Glaucous for the day and only part of the group was able to see the Franklin's. The bird highlight for me and several others were the 4 Black Vultures that cruised over the river from the New York side, eventually disappearing into the wilds of Ontario. This was only my second sighting of this species in Ontario this year; the other sighting coming at the same location back in February.

Two out of the four Black Vultures

Another interesting bird was an apparent hybrid seen at the control gates that Brett Fried found. It had several characteristics that made it seem superficially similar to a Slaty-backed Gull, but other features didn't match up. Maybe next weekend!
It was a stellar weekend with some good birds - King Eider, Black Vulture, Franklin's Gull, Northern Rough-winged Swallows - and the action is undoubtedly going to heat up. I'm excited to return in upcoming days and weeks!

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