Saturday, 24 December 2011

Last Day with the Niagara River Gulls

Thursday was my last day in Canada, as I'm sitting here on my sofa in London having travelled back earlier today (Friday). I must say that, for a brief week long trip on what I would term a 'non-birding holiday', it was brilliant. Toronto and the Niagara area had copious amounts of the stuff I'm really into (such as gulls) backed up with phenomenal numbers of waterfowl that I don't see any old day back here in London.

My final day was spent with a group of Ontario and Buffalo birders who spend much of their time in larid heaven on the Niagara river. I learnt a hell of a lot with them on Thayer's Gulls, Kumlien's and the different populations of American Herring Gulls - much more than what us Europeans can do by just thumbing through the good old identification articles and odd lone individuals. I'll do some more stuff on this sometime soon.
Anyway, my day was spent at a few spots along the Niagara river. Sir Adam Beck (pictured above) is the place for large gulls, and a site where I saw at least two Thayer's Gulls (an adult and a second-winter) and half a dozen Kumlien's Gulls. There was an adult Little Gull just upriver at the Whirlpool in amongst the copious amounts of Bonaparte's Gulls, while the wall at Chippawa is the other decent site for a bit of large larus action - have a look at this bad boy below to get you going...

If I was on the Thames (which obviously I wasn't), I'd be putting this down as a hybrid Herring x LBB; and that's kind of (well, AHG x LBB) what I assume this bird is too with LBB Gull numbers having increased dramatically in Ontario in recent years - I only saw a third-winter bird (looked like a typical graellsii in mantle colour and structure/bulk). So this hybrid bird was evidently darker mantled than all the smickers, its legs a tepid yellow (with a hint of flesh too), pale iris, head streaking like a LBB and a relatively pronounced tertial step.

There literally are 1000s of American Herring Gulls to scan through, and although variable one thing that really did strike me was that the feet were a real rich bubblegum pink in all adults, without exception - much more standardised than the array of leg colour you get through argenteus and argentatus. The birds are distant, but here are a few smickers for now.
Galaxy smooth...

A 'classic' 2nd-winter - look at that all dark tail, retained greater-covert bar and dark secondaries. A monster like this wouldn't have any problems this side of the pond.

They don't all look like this by the way, despite what we're led to believe. This is a very extreme example
It wasn't all gulls, though it nearly was. I managed to see a couple of Dark-eyed Juncos and an American Robin while looking through the gulls. And a quick stop off at some feeders in Chippawa produced White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker and American Goldfinch - all good Nearctic fare for me. But if it's one species I'll remember the Niagara river for, it's those tern-like small gulls and I got my fill again.
Finally, I would just like to extend my thanks to the expert knowledge and hospitality that all the birders showed during the trip - Jean Iron was fantastic throughout and along with Willie D'Anna, provided me with plenty of info pre and during my trip; their knowledge of the gulls was immense too, along with Ron Pittaway, Betsy Potter, Declan Troy and Kevin McLaughlin - who I could have talked all day with regarding AHGs. Thank you all, and Karen really appreciated the way you looked after her too.

L to R: Betsy, Jean, Ron, Willie, Declan, me and Kevin

1 comment:

  1. Nice stuff - luk fwd to some gull pics and info.

    Merry Thingy....

    Laurie -