This past weekend was the Ontario Field Ornithologists Niagara River Gull watch. This is the second year that not only myself, but Aaron went down east to look at gulls. Though we didn't look the whole weekend.
One thing I need to make clear is this, Aaron is not a birder and I have come to accept that he will never be birder. I also know that for someone who is a non birder, looking at gulls all weekend is the epitome of boring, so we only went for most of the day on Saturday along the river to look at gulls.
Friday morning we drove down Hwy #3 and stopped in at Erieau, Port Stanley, the lagoons near Port Stanley and Port Burwell. Probably our number one bird out of all these locations was a single white Snow Goose at Port Burwell, along with a Cavasback in the Port Stanley Lagoons.
We also stopped into an antique store in Morpeth, where I picked up a copy of The Birds of Canada by legendary Percy A. Taverner for only $12.00.
Sample page of "Birds of Canada" by Percy A Taverner. Originally printed in 1937 (this copy is from 1949). So far a very interesting read from the few pages of species accounts I have glanced at.
We also decided to drive along Lakeshore road east of Port Burwell. The road, no longer in use, has been eroding for a while now. There are also properties along that stretch that look like at any time they will fall off the cliff into the lake. Take a look sometime when you are on Google Earth on satellite view and take a look.
Where Lakeshore Road once used to be just east of Port Burwell, now slowly falling int the lake. You can still tell where the road was. Photo by Marianne Reid-Balkwill
Arriving into Niagara Falls at night we had 2 nights booked at the Motel 6 for only $94.00 for both nights! I love the off season!
Saturday was cool in the morning but as the day wore on it got mild. Aaron and I started at the mouth of the river at Niagara-on-the-Lake and saw a flock of 5 White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and fly by Oldsquaw. As for gulls we saw Herring, Ring-billed, Great black-backed and Bonaparte's. Well that takes care of the common species of gulls. On to the more sought after ones!
We drove by Queenston and went to Adam Beck. Here we saw Kevin McLaughlin, Jean Iron and Ron Tozer to name a few birder friends. Next Blake Mann arrived who told us that there were a lot of action at Queenston (we missed the Black Vultures). At Adam Beck we added Lesser Black-backed Gull and Kumlien's Iceland Gull. Couldn't pick out a Thayer's at that point, but we would be back later. On to the whrilpool!
There was hardly anything at the whirlpool. Using the scope Aaron found a stone bridge where someone spray painted "Beware of Troll"....that was the highlight.
North of the falls was our next stop and there was a ton of gulls, including a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but nothing to add.
Walking down closer to the falls there were tons of gulls swirling around including hundreds (if not thousands) of Bonaparte's Gulls. This is where the Black-headed Gull was seen the day before but no luck today.
Just a drop in the bucket compared to the endless galaxies of gulls we saw that day. (Note: a group of gulls is indeed called a galaxy). Photo by Aaron Balkwill
By now it was after 2:00pm and I wanted to head down to Queenston to the boat launch. It was a highway of gulls, with some going up the river and others down river. I just held up my binoculars and hoped for the best. We were there for well over an hour. I had one juv. Glaucous Gull and right after I lowered my tripod legs I noticed a gull with dark under the wings...raising up the bins there was an adult Little Gull. I set up shop again while Aaron set on the dock and played with his smartphone...Oh uh..
After a nice chat with Hugh Currie, I could tell Aaron was getting bored. By this point it was 3:30pm and we never even had lunch yet, so I decided to pack it in for the day. We began driving back to our Motel. We even drove by Adam Beck where I'm sure we would've got Thayer's Gull...Oh well.
To save money, Aaron and I brought our portable camping stove and some home made dehydes that we usually make for our camping trips. We decided to have supper, out of all places, in the teepee outside the Souvenir City. Things were going great until we got caught by a sales associate who said that the tepee is not fire proof. We had to settle having our supper on the tail gate of the truck in the parking lot...not nearly as fun.
The teepee at the souvenir store that Aaron and I tried to have supper in using our portable camp stove. Photo by Marianne Reid-Balkwill
The next day we woke up to rain as was expected. This was Aaron's day. We drove up to Burlington for the day. We passed the OFO group just after 9:00am at Sir Adam Beck. There were a lot of umbrellas present. Despite the weather they had a successful day and even relocated the Black-headed Gull!
In Burlington we decided to stop into the Mountain Equipment Co-op to get a few items for our next camping trip in 2013. I'm not sure where we are going to next year. Probably for sure a fall Algonquin canoe trip at the north end of the park, but other than that we may do Temagami, or French River. I would love to do Wabakimi Provincial Park. Guess we shall see!