[Ontbirds] OFO Niagara River Gull Trip

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Mon Dec 3 09:37:02 EST 2012

Sunday's trip was a huge success despite rain all day. About 85 OFO members and friends attended the trip. The purpose was to see the largest number of gull species and for participants to learn the fine points of identification, aging and recognizing different plumages.

Our group recorded 10 species of gulls below in checklist order:

Bonaparte's Gull – 1000s at the Whirlpool and above the Falls. We saw only about 5 birds in first winter plumage.

Black-headed Gull – 1 adult out from the Toronto Power Generating Station circling with Bonaparte's between there and the old barge. Thanks to Kevin Shackleton for pointing out this most sought-after gull.

Little Gull - a few birders saw an adult at the Whirlpool among hundreds of Bonaparte's.

Ring-billed Gull - 1000s at Adam Beck and above the Falls.

Herring Gull - 1000s of all age classes along the river. We also saw several juvenile "Northern" Herring Gulls. They are recognized at this time of year by their very dark brown plumage and still being in full juvenile plumage, whereas most "Southern" Herrings that hatched earlier in the year have now molted into first winter plumage. 

Thayer's Gull - several adults at Adam Beck. For information on Thayer's see link.

Kumlien's Iceland Gull - almost all of the Iceland Gulls seen at Niagara are the kumlieni subspecies which breeds in the eastern Canadian Arctic. We saw 4 or 5 juvenile/first winter birds and several adults at Adam Beck, and one juvenile above the Falls.

Nominate Iceland Gull - a good candidate for the glaucoides subspecies which breeds in Greenland was above the Falls. It is very rare in Ontario with a specimen record from Ottawa in the Canadian Museum of Nature. Bruce and Ben Di Labio took photos and Bruce will post photos on his blog tonight when he returns home. Check Ontbirds. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull - several adults from the Control Gates at Chippawa and a juvenile and adult at Adam Beck. This European Gull is now regular in increasing numbers on the river. The origin of many of our birds may be Greenland, where this species colonized in recent years.

Glaucous Gull - 1 adult and a juvenile at Adam Beck.

Great Black-backed Gull - many adults, several juveniles and other age classes mostly above the Falls and at Adam Beck.

Other Sightings: We saw Tufted Titmouse and Red-bellied Woodpecker near the feeders at Dufferin Islands. A male Black-throated Blue Warbler was between Engineerium Building and creek bridge opposite Dufferin Islands - thanks Rick Thornton. A Yellow-rumped Warbler was at Whirlpool; Merlin near Whirlpool; Carolina Wren and Cooper's Hawk at Adam Beck; Great Blue Heron on the wall at Chippawa; massive flock (ten thousand plus) of European Starlings flew over Adam Beck going to roost in New York State about 4:30 p.m.

For tips and information about gull watching see OFO article.

Gull watching at Niagara should remain excellent throughout December.

Jean Iron and Ron Tozer
OFO Trip Leaders

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