Monday, December 5, 2011

Niagara River gull watch and other birding tidbits

First alternate plumaged Franklin's Gull. I got the pleasure of seeing 2 different Franklin's Gulls in a week. The first bird was in the Pelee area, while the second was at Niagara. This photo however is neither birds, but an individual at Erieau back in 2007. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

I haven't posted in over a month now. During the month of November I had a little bit of a break from working every day, so I birded as much as possible. Now that we are in the dreaded holiday season, I will be working more than ever, so I figured I had better get another blog post in before Christmas. I probably won't be birding from now until January, a horrible thought but true.

This past weekend I finally got take part in one of the many field trips held by the Ontario Field Ornithologists. I have lead OFO field trips in the past, but never got a chance to actually participate in one, and what better field trip than the Niagara River gull watch! The field trip was held on Sunday December 4th, though the excitement already began when Kevin McLaughlin found a Slaty-backed Gull, a North American rarity, on the 3rd. I found this news out after Aaron and I arrived at our motel in Niagara Falls Saturday night. The next morning of the OFO trip we were both up early arriving at the control gates where the gull was last spotted. Unfortunately, the Slaty seemed to be a one hit wonder, as other birders (around 75 in total) could not relocate the gull. There was a Slaty-back looking gull on the American side, about a kilometre away, but even with an army of 30 scopes worth over $50,000, we could not see the trade mark bright pink legs or the string-of pearls. Another gull I dipped out on was California Gull. There was one gull in amongst the others that had a darker grey mantle. This individual bird was sleeping so all you could really go by was the darker mantle and dark markings on the head and neck. The bird finally stood up revealing a California Gull bill, but with a pale eye and pink, not yellow, legs. This gull was perhaps a hybrid.

I did get one lifer on the trip, an immature Pomarine Jeager at Sir Adam Beck power generating station. This bird was active all day harassing the Herring Gulls, and once in a while being harassed in return by them! Out of all the locations to view gulls I think I like Adam Beck the best because you get to view everything from above. This is obviously a lot different than looking through the crowds of gulls crammed together at Wheatley Harbour.

By 4:00pm, Aaron and I had 9 species of Gulls: Herring, Ring-billed, Bonaparte's, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Franklin's, Thayer's, Iceland, and Glaucous Gull. We did not see the Kittiwake or the Little Gull that was spotted that day.

Here is a summary of the trip by field trip leader Jean Iron:

It was nice that Aaron got to partake in the field trip. Even though he isn't a birder he seemed to have a lot of fun and got to meet (or get reacquainted with) many birders that I have a lot of respect for.

When you think about it, the Ontario Field Ornithologists is a great organization. For only $35.00 a year you get the journal, Ontario Birds, that comes out three times a year, as well as the OFO News that comes out three times a year as well. You also get the annual OBRC report, which describes all the rare birds on the review list for Ontario for the year. Along with free fieldtrips, an annual convention, a free checklist of birds, and getting to know some of the best birders in Ontario, if not North America, what more could you ask for for only $35.00?!

Here is a link to their membership:

In other news this fall, I do have 2 new Pelee Birds this past month. One was a Franklin's Gull that was at Sturgeon Creek on November 17th. The second bird was a Black-legged Kittiwake, in a really weird spot, out in the flooded onion fields, on December 1st. Both these birds may still be around.

Now that we are finally getting some winter like weather, we should be getting some new goodies soon. One of those goodies as already showed up over the weekend, a Snowy Owl, which is always a delight to see since we don't get them ever winter.

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you got the Pomarine Jaeger.
    Pretty neat to see it from above!
    Have fun this month.