Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Birding Above the Falls

After missing the upper Niagara section of the OFO Niagara River Gull trip on December 4, Jean and I returned with her mum on the morning of the 6th for a chance to observe Harlequin Duck, Slaty-backed Gull and our nemesis bird. 

At the control gates, I quickly spotted 3 female Harlequin Ducks (#214) flying upriver along the outside of the break-wall.

After floating down river, the 3 females returned to rest on the break-wall.

There were a few gulls (Herring and Ring-billed) on the wall and on the large flat rock island in the middle of the river, we spotted 3 adult and 1 first winter Great Black-backed Gulls. I could not convince myself that one of these adult gulls had legs the colour of "bubble-gum pink". The Slaty-backed Gull was out of sight and most likely closer to the New York side of the river. We continued to scan the gulls but neither we or the visiting Ohio birders that joined us at the overlook found the gull that is more at home on the northeast coast of Asia.

We moved on and set up our scope near the engineerium. The barge was in the usual spot, but searching the exposed rocks did not produce the Purple Sandpiper that was observed 2 days prior. Ouch!

We walked along the paved path towards the fore-bay. Near the gatehouse, chickadees cheerfully collected bits of almond from my mother-in-law's hand while Golden-crowned Kinglets and a White-breasted Nuthatch flitted in the nearby bushes.

After observing a couple dozen Hooded Mergansers in the waters of the fore-bay (they are regularly found here during the winter) we called it a day.

Unable to find lifers on the upper Niagara early in the week, our attention turned to the Boreal species that were not found on the Algonquin trip in April. Jean and I were on vacation the week of December 5 and once I printed Ron Tozer's Algonquin Park Birding Report, I was optimistic we would  have some additional Algonquin ticks for our 2011 Ontario year list.

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