Sunday 7 February 2016

Niagara River - Little Gull, Black Vultures and More!

This weekend I had the pleasure of paying another visit to the Stevensville and Fort Erie area to see some family.  Had a great dinner with the birthday twins (Terry and Chris), Fred and Skip at the Old Bank Bistro and I of course had some time to go birding on the river on Saturday afternoon.

Even though I saw much of the typical Niagara River rarities, I never get tired of seeing them again, especially in February when they are new for the year!

I started out at Mather Park and had great looks at the thousands of ducks flying, diving and resting on the water.

Mather Park ice
Many of the ducks were in full mating swing and were beginning to court.  At least the males seemed to be into it, this female seemed rather annoyed and outnumbered.  You can see the brown-headed female in the middle of the male Common Mergansers below.

Common Mergansers
I stopped at Dufferin Islands to see if I could pick up any interesting song birds and came away with great looks at this Tufted Titmouse.  About the size of a stocky chickadee, these birds have a lot of personality!

Tufted Titmouse

Iceland Gulls were all over the place on Saturday, I saw several near the Control Gates above Niagara Falls and a stop at the Whirlpool revealed this nice adult.  Unfortunately the tram wire got in the way of a clear shot.  It was neat to see one here, as I don't recall seeing them at this spot before.

Iceland Gull - note the clean white wings
The Whirlpool from above
 A stop at Adam Beck resulted in at least 6 Iceland Gulls, but not too much else except for a small herd of White-tailed Deer right along the road.  They seemed quite tolerant of my presence as I snapped off one obligatory photo.

I stopped at the Queenston overlook to see if I could spot the resident Black Vultures and was quickly rewarded.  I counted at least 8 birds circling and flying around although I think there were probably several more.  I never get tired of seeing this awesome bird.  The only spot in Ontario you could reliably find this species at almost any time.  In addition to Black Vultures, I also saw nearly a dozen Turkey Vultures as well.

Black Vulture
 I watched them for some time.  I really like the shot below.  Not bad considering the bird was likely at least a kilometre away on the American side over Lewiston, NY!  My trusty Sony HX-50 came through again!

Black Vulture
I then went down the hill into Queenston to the marina to look for gulls in hopes of seeing our smallest species of gull, the aptly named Little Gull.  I sifted through at least a thousand Bonaparte's Gulls and finally saw the dark underwings signaling that I had found an adult Little Gull. Unfortunately no photos, but I enjoyed watching it fly among the swarm of Bonapartes Gulls, occasionally dipping down to snatch a fish from the surface.  As I was preparing to leave I spotted some more Black Vultures, this time on the Canadian side flying quite close.  I managed to get a few decent shots!

Black Vulture
Black Vulture - incoming!
Black Vultures soaring
Black Vultures with gull photo bomb!

In this shot you can see a Black Vulture above and a Turkey Vulture below, note how the Turkey Vulture holds its wings in more of a V pattern whereas the Black holds them nearly flat.
Long-tailed Duck
Another enjoyable day on the river! Next weekend I hope to get some owl watching in on Amherst Island near my parents home!


  1. Hi Nathan.

    Great post. Were all these photos taken with your sony hx-50? I have been looking for a camera for outdoor bird and wildlife photography, but the dslr cameras and all the lenses required are a bit out of my price range. Would a camera like yours be something you would recommend for a beginner?

  2. Hi Jonathan, yes all the pix were taken with the HX-50. They have a newer model (HX-60) out, but the only change as far as I know is that it has a few more bells and whistles but same actual camera. Another fellow blogger Pat also has the camera and we both love it. Its cheaper than a DSLR, extremely compact and got phenomenal ratings. I have a DSLR but dont use it since its so easy to stick this little guy in my pocket and go. Its also very easy to use.