Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Not Always Going to Be Black and White

Another weekend of exciting birds in Niagara. Many birders were out and about at several spots along the Niagara River. At Queens Royal Park in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), the Razorbill continued to be observed, jaegers were spotted, Black Vultures were soaring above the Niagara Gorge and an excellent variety of gulls were observed at Adam Beck and the Whirlpool. With the Razorbill and Franklin's Gull safely ticked, it was time for Jean and I to observe a Black Vulture. But first, we had to make a stop at small pond in rural NOTL. 

On Friday, my friend Dave posted on ontbirds that there was an American White Pelican at Jack Custers Bird Sanctuary. Up until Dave's post, I had no idea there was such a place.  

Jean and I arrived late Saturday morning and we discovered fellow Niagara birders, Paula and Kathy had the same idea (this appears to happen quite frequently whether we are in Niagara or beyond). The pond is on the small side, but the juvenile American White Pelican did not seem to mind.  I set up our scope and Jean started capturing images with her Nikon Coolpix.

Jean contacted her dad and we continued to view the pelican until my father-in-law and his partner Ruth returned to St. Kitts to continue their weekend chores. I having set my chores aside (yet again), moved on to Queenston with hopes of ticking #210 for the year. I thought our best chances would be to look from atop the gorge at the Locust Grove picnic area in Queenston. Each vulture we examined, as they soared over the Niagara River and the town of Lewiston, N.Y., had a red head. They were all Turkey Vultures. Dip #1 for the day.

The next stop for Jean and I was at the Adam Beck overlook where we found  "Burg Birder" Blake scanning the gulls on the river. He had seen Franklin's , Lesser Black-backed and Thayer's Gull but during our time there all we found was one adult Iceland, a species already on the year list.

Blake informed us that he had observed a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake at the Whirlpool earlier in the day. Well, since it was worth a shot, we travelled up river for the possibility of observing a lifer bird. We've stood at the look out of the Spanish Aero Car many times in search of a Little Gull. Spotting a kittiwake amongst the hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls would not be easy. Juvenile Bonaparte's and Black-legged Kittiwakes are similar in appearance. What we needed to note was a bolder "M" across the back and a black line across the nape of the neck. We spotted a juvenile gull flying but it was a quick look and neither of us viewed the black collar. Another attempt was offered once we were informed the kittiwake had landed on the waters of the Whirlpool. Unfortunately, it was in the midst of a few hundred Bonaparte's. I used the scope to look for the cliff-nesting gull, but could not find it. Dip #2 for the day.

Sitting one species better than last year's Ontario list, I spent Sunday running errands. The constant light rain was also a deterrent, but I was content with just the American White Pelican tick. As of Monday, the extremely rare visitor to Niagara was still on the small pond in NOTL and it was the subject in the local news section of today's St. Catharines Standard. I'm hoping it sticks around for another few days, then it can be ticked again for another list, the 2011/2012 Winter List.

If only Black Vultures and Black-legged Kittiwakes were as cooperative as White Pelicans.

1 comment:

  1. I thought for sure you would find the Kittiwake. It was difficult to find on the water way down in the gorge though.
    Overall, it was a great weekend for birding the Niagara River!