Wednesday 8 October 2014

Fort Erie - Niagara River

Last night I was looking at my schedule and determined that a day off to chase birds in Fort Erie and the Niagara River was an absolute necessity.  Rare birds have been reported in abundance here in recent days due to great southwest-west winds that are pushing lots of gulls and other species to the end of the lake.  I left Fergus bright and early and arrived at Waverly Beach in Fort Erie around 7:15am.

Waverly Beach sunrise
I sat on a bench and scanned the horizon and lake for about an hour and a half and had great numbers of Common Terns, Bonaparte's Gulls, Surf Scoter, Common Loon and others.  My primary target for the day was to find a Sabine's Gull, but it wasn't happening at Waverly so I moved on to Mather Park.  I sat on the beach with my spotting scope and binoculars here for 2 hours as a big storm rolled in, pushing plenty of birds into the river mouth.  I scanned through piles of Common Terns and Bonaparte's Gulls until my eyes were bugging out, and finally I spotted a small gull about the size of a Bonaparte's Gull but with a distinctive brown saddle and black leading edge and wing tips.  A very distinctive pattern and one I immediately recognized as a juvenile Sabine's Gull!  I tried to snap a few photos of this guy but it was too far out, at least 1km away.  I did get this shot.

Sabine's Gull is that black speck on the right. Trust me...
Zoomed in you can see the brownish head of the Sabine's.
I stayed at Mather a little while longer and then made my way north up the river.  Gull numbers dropped off steeply as I moved further from the river mouth.

An odd site on the Niagara...a domestic goose.
Horned Grebe in winter plumage.  Can you make out the red eye?
Gull and cormorant feeding frenzy
My last stop of the day was the Queenston overlook just north of the Brock Memorial.  This spot has routinely had Black Vultures reported, but try as I may, I have not been able to track them down...until today! Soon after arriving, I quickly found a vulture that I knew was not a Turkey Vulture.  Black Vultures are stockier birds, with silver wing tips and a black head.  I snapped a few identifiable shots.  This is my 241st bird species in Ontario this year, I think I can hit 250 before new years!

Black Vulture incoming! Note the way that this bird holds its wings flat when gliding as opposed to Turkey Vulture which holds them in a slight V.
Note those silver tipped wings of the Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture for comparison. Note the red head and uplifted wings.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Niagara River never disappoints and it is one of my favourite birding spots in Ontario!  Lucky for me, Caitlyn and I are heading to her parents for thanksgiving in Fort Erie this weekend.  Birds, family and food (in no particular order).

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