Sunday 7 December 2014

Purple Sandpiper and Gull Roundup- Niagara River

Well this weekend I had another chance to get some "gulling" in on the Niagara River.  I met up with the Burrells who were leading a trip for the Kitchener-Waterloo Naturalist Club and we had a great time working the river from Niagara-on-the-Lake down to above the falls. We managed to find some of the interesting species such as Glaucous, Iceland, Thayer's and Lesser Black-backed Gull as well as an albino Bonaparte's Gull.

Although boring to some people, gull watching is a fascinating challenge to me, and one that I am far from mastering.  It involves sifting through countless subtle features such as mantle colour, shade of the legs, amount of black on the wings and overall size and shape, so much of which is dependent on the conditions available.

If you were sorting through the countless Herring Gulls on this breakwater you might miss the adult Glaucous Gull sitting at the back of the photo below.  But looking closely you can see it is actually quite a bit larger, has a slightly paler mantle and just looks a bit cleaner than the others.  If you could see the wing tips it would help, since this species has pale wingtips.  It is like a giant game of "Where is Waldo", and I loved those books when I was a kid!

Glaucous Gull- back middle
Iceland Gull on the left sits with a few Herring Gulls
Iceland Gull in flight, note those clean wingtips.
By far the most exciting bird of the day for me was this Purple Sandpiper that Ken quickly spotted just above the falls.  You can just see him sticking up at the top of the rock.  It amazes me that these birds select such a tumultuous site to rest and forage, the water was crashing by in massive waves, but none of this seemed to phase this little guy!

Purple Sandpiper
This Purple Sandpiper was  #249 for my Ontario year list!  I think I am going to get to my goal of 250 before the new year!  But what will be number 250??

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