[Ontbirds]Niagara Falls area today

Holden Family holden.ontbirds at gmail.com
Wed Jan 30 19:50:32 EST 2008

My Dad and I spent several hours (11am till dusk) around the falls, checking
from the control gates to below the falls, on both the American and Canadian
sides of the river. We somehow managed to miss the bird the entire day (we
left goat island at 2:55pm), but both weather and gulls were very
interesting. The river itself was flowing as powerfully as I had ever seen
it (in the morning), with no exposed rocks anywhere on the river due to the
high waters. By the end of the day, the gates had been closed and water
levels were returning to normal. Some wind gusts were also amazingly
powerful, and snow squalls in the morning made viewing difficult. Throughout
the day, mist from the falls would freeze, and hit your face as painful ice
pellets whenever in range. Below the falls, at 11am, most of the water
between the American and Canadian falls was open, but less than 2 hours
later, ice had re-built up to covering most of the water again. Very large
numbers of Gulls in flight and at rest today.

Gull observations included 3 1st ba. Thayer's Gulls, 3 Kumlien's Iceland
Gulls, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Glaucous Gulls, 1 3rd ba. Nelson's
Gull (Herring X Glaucous hybrid). Ring-billed Gull numbers seem very high to
me. Herring Gull numbers seem low, but tend to increase greatly (personal
observation) on weekends due to landfills and other commercial operations
being closed, forcing them back to the river early to feed. Very few
Bonaparte's Gulls around when the water was high, but numbers increased as
the water lowered. I had a surprising 3 1st ba. Bonaparte's Gulls on the
28th, but none today.

The last Gull highlight was a probable hybrid Lesser Black-backed Gull x
Herring Gull... The bird was an adult, and showed several features of
Yellow-legged Gull including a noticeably paler mantle than a Lesser
Black-backed Gull, a bright yellow bill with a strong red gonydeal
spot, a pale iris, apparently yellow legs with no pink tones (that i could
tell at a distance) and a large (Herring-Gull size) with a "mean" look and a
large powerful looking bill (even compared to the Herring Gulls). The main
feature against Yellow-legged Gull was fairly heavy brownish head streaking,
whereas Yellow-legged Gull should have an un-marked head by now. I wonder if
this bird would cause more confusion if seen later in the spring once it
attains breeding plumage. Either way, a fun gull to keep an eye out for
while searching for the Ross's.

So while the Ross's is still around, its not always an easy thing to see!
There were few birders on the Canadian side today, so more observers might
make getting this bird easier.

Good Birding!

Brandon Holden

Hamilton, ON

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