Thursday, 22 December 2011

Niagara Introduction

So the first day in Niagara has drawn to a close. We're staying in Niagara-on-the-lake, a beautiful town that lies on where the Niagara river flows into Lake Ontario. The weather has been pretty lousy today but it has still been possible to rack up some interesting species. Most notably, there have been more Bonaparte's Gulls than you could shake a stick at. In fact, on the evening flyby (birds fly down the Niagara river late afternoon and roost on Lake Ontario) there were probably in excess of 3,000 along with a nice adult Little Gull, standing out markedly by its obviously dark underwing in contrast to all the Bonaparte's. There was also a sizeable flock of Bonaparte's hovering over a shoal of small fish near Miller's Creek Marina (between Niagara and Fort Erie), where it was possible to study the species at close range despite the poor light.


Note the rather dark bar on the underwing, a feature I don't recall seeing so obviously previously

Like the vagrants I've seen in Britain and Ireland, leg colour really does vary from bubblegum pink to bright orange; probably more birds in the pink...
 The legendary Adam Beck HEP was pretty decent too, although the large gulls in the river at the bottom were rather more distant. However, it was good to be able to study American Herring Gulls, particularly adults, where the primary patterns seemed pretty variable with some birds almost argentatus-like with reduced black in the wingtips while other birds only had small mirrors on the outer primaries. Anyway, I saw half a dozen Kumlien's Gulls of varying darkness too along with my first Great Black-backed Gulls of the trip.

Ducks were scattered right the way along the river, mainly Goldeneye, Buffleheads and Long-tailed Ducks with smaller numbers of Red-breasted Mergs and Goosanders. And, just outside our hotel, there was a nice close pair of deglandi White-winged Scoter late afternoon - good enough to see the drake's bill and brown flanks. Other birds noted included a showy Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, American Goldfinch and American Crow.
Northern Cardinal

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