[Ontbirds] Niagara Falls area (US and Canada), Jan. 8 - 11 (long)

Scott Baron brnpelican at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 14 17:32:42 EST 2011

Hello, birders.

Highlights, details below --- Over 1000 Canvasback (Jan. 11), King Eider (Jan. 
10), Little (Jan. 9), Lesser Black-backed (Jan. 9, 10), Glaucous (Jan. 8, 9, 
10), Iceland (Jan. 8, 9, 10), Thayer's Gull (Jan. 9), Common Redpoll (Jan. 11).

I greatly enjoyed my trip to Western New York and adjacent Ontario.  I combined 
sightseeing w/ birding.  Friendly people, nice scenery, good and abundant birds 
and responsible drivers (!).

Sat. Jan. 8
In the afternoon I ran into a few other birders on Goat Island (Niagara Falls 
SP, NY).  We birded there and on Grand Island before I had to go.  I saw some of 
the uncommon species there that Brad Carlson noted in his post of Jan. 9.  He 
and the other birders were cool enough to let me tag along.  We saw lots of 
waterfowl and gulls at both locations.  I enjoyed the weather that day - so 
variable, sun and snow.

Sun. Jan. 9
First stop was the Queenston, Ont. boat launch.  Heard a flyover Redpoll as I 
walked down the path.  After an hour of watching along the river I saw an adult 
LITTLE GULL.  I observed it for several minutes as it flew around in the large 
(a few hundred) Bonaparte's Gull flock.  One time it alighted on the water to 
pick or grab something but it seemed to come up empty.  When in the air the 
Little's dark underwings were visible w/ the naked eye and that's what first 
drew my eyes to it.  Besides the Bonaparte's Gulls, the 162 Long-tailed Ducks 
were the most numerous birds there.  The Long-tails were beautiful and were 
calling frequently.  Many hunters were upstream, firing often, presumably at the 
Long-tails.  Some were apparently on the Ontario side and a park officer took 
note.  Other birders stopped by including a group from the OFO.  I perused the 
new Niagara region bird book, written by their president.  A nice job!  

Continuing on the Ontario side, Adam Beck was wonderful.  Again I ran into a 
group of local birders.  We ID'd gulls including LESSER BB, GLAUCOUS and 
ICELAND.  Others but not me IDd a couple of THAYERS.  It was great that I got to 
see this species.  It was fun and challenging to try to find a Thayers myself, 
although I'm not sure that I did.  The hundreds of gulls included 200+ Herring 
and 300+ Bonaparte's Gulls.

More birding on the Ontario side at the whirlpool area, at a pulloff along the 
river in Chippewa and near what I think is the Niagara Control Structure found 
lots more gulls and waterfowl but nothing unusual.

Did not bundle up enough on this day.  Man, it was cold.  Did better on Monday 
with 5 layers.

Mon. Jan. 10
I birded a couple of locations near Port Welland.  First stop, Westcliffe Park.  
Cold and quite windy but it was quite birdy.  Among the numerous gulls were two 
2nd cycle GLAUCOUS.  Red-breasted Mergansers were abundant along the lakeshore, 
at least 150.  Red-breasted and Common Mergs gave me the opportunity to compare 
the females side by side.  Mallards numbered at least 225 in a small secluded 
area behind the dock.  More waterfowl of 6 other species were present.  6 
Double-crested Cormorants hung out.

Next I went to the Welland Canal Trail at the George Nicholson section, which is 
where I wanted to go in the first place but couldn't find.  This is where I saw 
the adult male KING EIDER (see post from Jan. 10).  Again there were numerous 
gulls and waterfowl.  In the general area of the Eider were 2 adult ICELAND 
GULLS and my only White-winged Scoter of the trip.  In the area where I was 
standing when watching the Eider was a Hermit Thrush, first heard ("chuck") then 
seen well perched on a low branch.  Where I parked at the end of Seaway Haulage 
Rd. there was a decent sized flock of Robins (50? hard to tell) as well lots 
of backyard bird types - Chickadees, Juncos, Goldfinches, etc.

Below the falls from the Niagara side in mid-afternoon - more gulls and 
waterfowl of course.  An adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was nice at the base of 
the American Falls.  Most of the waterfowl hugged the Canadian side as well as a 
couple of American Coot.  

Last stop of the day was perhaps my favorite of the trip, the Three Sisters area 
of Goat Island.  I obtained very close views of diving and dabbling waterfowl.  
The birds paid little or no attention to me.  It was interesting to see Mallards 
diving under the turbulent water.  Never seen that before, I wonder what they 
were feeding on?  They were the most abundant bird there.  Saw one more Coot.  
Gulls included 2 adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED.  Numerous songbirds were active.  
Gulls streaming in at sunset, presumably going to roost on the river.

Tue., Jan. 11
Not much time for birding.  In the morning made quick 1 hr. trip to Grand Island 
SP (NY) where I walked the trail from the West Creek parking lot to the bridge 
over the mouth of the creek and back.  Lots of backyard-type birds were near the 
parking area - woodpeckers, chickadees, etc.  As noted in a recent post, 
Canvasbacks were abundant, a conservative est. of 1250 - 1500 on my short walk.  
Approximately 85% were male.  My only No. Pintail of the trip was here, a male 
not far off the shore.  Mallards, Goldeneye and Can. Goose also.  When I was 
ready to turn back at the little bridge I heard Redpolls.  Turned my head, they 
were 30' away in an Alder.  I watched them feed for several minutes.  I searched 
this flock of 23 COMMON REDPOLLS for a Hoary but didn't see one. 

Thanks to all who helped me w/ my trip beforehand and thanks for the hospitality 
of those who I bumped into.  If you want to bird in the DC area sometime, feel 
free to contact me!

Scott Baron
Fairfax, Va.


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