Sunday, February 19, 2012

Niagara, again

Yesterday, Reuven Martin, Mark Dorriesfield, Matt Strimas-Mackey, his girlfriend Tina and I headed over to the Niagara river for my 5th time in the last 4 months. We had a reasonably successful day, highlights below!

Our first stop was in Fort Erie where after an hour of wandering the neighbourhood around Bowen Rd. we managed to get good looks at 2 Fish Crows and heard another. We also had Red-bellied Woodpecker and Sharp-shinned Hawk among others here. We then headed down to the end of the road on the river where there were almost no Bonaparte's Gulls (and therefore no Black-headed or Kittiwake) but there was a first-winter Thayer's among the many Great Black-backed and thousands of ducks.

We then headed downriver, stopping along the way to look at all the waterfowl - Tundra Swan, American Wigeon and Horned Grebe were the highlights among many thousands of mergansers, goldeneye, scaup, canvasback and redhead. A quick stop in Chippawa yielded no Tufted Titmice at the regular feeders but did have 2 more Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

After a quick lunch we headed to the overlook above the rapids, adding Glaucous, Iceland, Lesser Black-backed and California Gulls for the day. At Dufferin Islands we got our Titmice but no Harlequin Ducks and definitely no Purple Sandpipers as most of the rocks were frozen over.

Tufted Titmouse at Dufferin Islands

The Whirlpool was surprisingly empty (not a single Bonaparte's!), but we did have a mockingbird and a kestrel. At Adam Beck we scanned through the many large gulls, picking out a good number of Iceland Gulls along with a nice adult Thayer's and a 2nd-winter Lesser Black-backed. Since we weren't having any luck picking out a rarity, and we could see Turkey Vultures flying, we headed over to the Queenston Heights overlook, where after about a half hour of watching Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks, I spotted a Black Vulture circling in the distance. Finally! Only took me 5 visits... I also had a bit of a surprise when I picked up a passerine wayyyy over on the US side, flying towards us. About 2-3 minutes later, it passed over onto our side and I was able to ID it as a Horned Lark! Not exactly a rarity but was pretty cool nonetheless and new for my NY list.

Our next stop was in Port Weller where after less than a minute of searching, Reuven spotted the King Eider (adult male) that's been hanging out in the canal for most of the winter. We enjoyed some pretty awesome looks through the scope (unfortunately too far for my 300mm to get any good shots!) at this great bird.

The King Eider! This is when I wish I had a kayak or something...

Since we still had some light left, Mark, Reuven and I headed over to LaSalle marina where we had a bunch more ducks for the day and spent about half an hour with the immature male King Eider in view, sometimes down to <15 feet! Awesome!

 Greater Scaup male

female

Mallard, mallard, mallard, oh hey, that's not a Mallard!

Nope, it's a King Eider!

He was glad to pose for some pics

I got distracted by some curious juvenile Trumpeter Swans

But not for long! I thought this was a pretty cool assortment of birds in one photo

King Eider and his entourage - an armada of swans

Coming to say goodbye - this is barely cropped! I'd like to go back when there's some better light...

These longer days are proving to be pretty beneficial as we still had time after all this to stop in at Puslinch where we didn't find the Mountain Bluebird but did have an Iceland Gull and an adult Great Black-backed Gull in the quarries - a nice way to end this very birdy day. 

This will probably be my last visit to Niagara until November (unless another rarity turns up), so I thought I'd mention that 5 of my last 10 ON birds have been from the Niagara river! It's definitely a productive spot and it'd be nice to go over there during May, although without all those gulls I'm not sure it'll feel like a true Niagara visit!

1 comment:

Michelle Hassebroek said...

It sounds like you had a great day!! Did you happen to see the Bald Eagles on your travels? There are several along the parkway:) Very awesome.