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Roger or Margaret Higbee at

Birding the Niagara Frontier

Fri, November 23, 8:00 am – Mon, November 26, 2012, 11:00 pm
Niagara Frontier
Outing Leader: Roger and Margaret Higbee, bcoriole at windstream dot net, 724-354-3493


You must have a passport or a passport card to enter Canada and return to the US. This four-day trip will cover Dunkirk Harbor en route to the Peace Bridge as well as areas along the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. We plan to stay at the Days Inn near the falls on the Canadian side. You may take part in the entire trip or in only a day or two by meeting us there. If you are interested in going or have questions, please contact the Higbees (724-354-3493).

Last year�s Niagara highlights included Greater Whitefronted Geese, all three scoters, American White Pelican, Red-necked Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, Little Gull, Franklin�s Gull, California Gull, Thayer�s Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Pomarine Jaeger, and Razorbill. A detour to Ashtabula, OH, on the way home yielded two Snowy Owls. For a complete report, go to our website: ON=DESCRIPTION&EVENTID=50

Trip Report

Friday, November 23, 2012

Roger and I left home at 6:09 this morning to head to Grove City where we were to meet Linda Wagner and Richard Nugent. We decided to drive through the outlet mall in search of crossbills and redpolls. Near the Columbia store, we parked and walked toward the little stand of hemlocks where we found no crossbills. Behind the hemlocks, however, were birches and perched in the birches feeding on the seed pods were two *Common Redpolls.

Our first stop was at Dunkirk Harbor where we were to meet Ian and Margaret Haigh. Here we listed:

Canada Goose�one lone bird!
Gadwalls � 2
American Black Ducks ~10
Mallards � 8
Lesser Scaup � 2
Hooded Mergansers � 4
Pied-billed Grebes � 3
Horned Grebes � 2
Double-crested Cormorants ~60
Bald Eagle � 1 adult
Ring-billed Gulls
Herring Gulls
Great Black-backed Gulls
Am. Coots

We crossed the Peace Bridge and headed to Old Fort Erie where our first stop was across from the fort. Here the numbers of waterfowl were way down from usual. Possibly the earliness of Thanksgiving contributed to the lack of ducks, but we squeaked out a decent list nonetheless:

Brant � 6
Tundra Swans
Long-tailed Ducks
White-winged Scoters � 3
Red-breasted Mergansers
Common Merganser � 1
Bonaparte�s Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls
Herring Gulls
Golden-crowned Kinglet � in the spruce lining the road

The wind was really whipping, making it feel much colder than the 48o it really was. We returned to the vehicles and stopped at various parking lots along the Niagara Parkway adding the following species to our Ontario trip list:

Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Common Mergansers
Horned Grebe
Great Black-backed Gulls
American Crows

Saturday, November 24, 2012

We left the Super 8 this morning at 7:00 a.m. to head to Grimsby where we planned to meet Frank and Sandra Horvath. En route I spotted four Wild Turkeys on roost in a tree. Other birds seen along the way were:

American Crow
Ring-billed Gulls
Herring Gulls
Rock Pigeons
European Starlings

Frank and Sandra were already in line at Tim Horton�s at the welcome center where we were to meet. Frank and Sandra took us to an area where they had seen a N. Saw-whet Owl the day before. We relocated the bird, and everyone had great looks at it. Other species seen in this vicinity included:

Canada Geese
Red-breasted Mergansers
N. Mockingbird
N. Cardinal
Am. Tree Sparrow
Am. Goldfinch

Our next destination was the end of Fruitland Road. Here we listed:

Long-tailed Ducks
Common Goldeneyes
White-winged Scoters
Surf Scoters
Red-breasted Mergansers
Herring Gulls

At Millen Road we had great close views of White-winged Scoters and a single Hooded Merganser on the lake. Along Green Road we added Mourning Doves and had great views of all the same species. We continued to Oceanic and parked near the playground. This stop yielded the second highlight of the morning, a first winter King Eider. We continued to Grays Road, but the wind was extremely strong; we scanned quickly but found nothing new.

Near Van Wagner�s Beach we walked a trail that crossed the QEW. Along the trail we listed Green-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, Am. Goldfinch, Double-crested Cormorants, and Herring Gulls. We next headed to Hutch�s for our annual fish & chips lunch.

After lunch we parked near Red Hill Creek to look at the waterfowl. Here were Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Buffleheads, Green-winged Teal, Double-crested Cormorants, Rock Pigeons, and two soaring Red-tailed Hawks. We continued to Windermere Basin where one of the first birds we sighted was a Merlin. Unfortunately the parking lot was gated, so we had to park along the road and walk in. This area yielded more Mourning Doves, Mallards, American Black Ducks, and two Ruddy Ducks that Ian and Margaret spotted that swam around the bend.
We continued up the road a bit and pulled off then crossed the highway to view Windermere Basin Pond which yielded our first Canvasbacks as well as Ruddy Ducks, Lesser Scaup, and Double-crested Cormorants. Flying by were several Great Black-backed Gulls.
Our next destination was Bayview Cemetery. As soon as Frank had parked the Jeep, we spotted our target bird � a red morph Eastern Screech-Owl roosting in a broken-off snag. Wow!

The day�s final birding locale was LaSalle Park where we all fed chickadees from our hands. LaSalle did not disappoint as we listed Carolina Wren, Black-capped Chickadees, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinals, Redheads, Lesser Scaup, American Coots, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Buffleheads, and Ring-billed Gulls as well as all three species of swans � Mute, Tundra, and Trumpeter.

It was getting dark by the time we left LaSalle, so we headed back to Grimsby where we enjoyed dinner at The Fifth Wheel.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We left the motel this morning at 7:00 and headed to Tim Horton�s on Victoria. Just as we were finishing, Frank and Sandra arrived. We drove to the Whirlpool where Sandra was the first to spot the Little Gull amid the myriad of Bonaparte�s, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls. An American Kestrel flew in and perched in a tree to the left of the cable car while House Sparrows chirped behind us. The trees behind the building yielded two White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, a Brown Creeper, and a Downy Woodpecker.

We decided to head to Sir Adam Beck. En route we spotted a Cooper�s Hawk perched in a tree, three American Robins on the lawn, and a Blue Jay in flight. An adult Iceland Gull, a first winterThayer�s Gull, and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull were present. I had been watching the far corner where last year we listed the Franklin�s Gull when suddenly a Franklin�s appeared and circled over the river, returning under the fence along the right edge. It circled twice before it disappeared as I was watching it through the vegetation along the cliff. I was the only one who saw it. Since it had headed up river, we decided to walk to the rocks. We did not find it at the first access, but two birders told ust that they had seen the gull on the rocks from a point about a quarter mile ahead. We continued along the trail till we had a clear view of the rocks. We spotted the Franklin�s perched on one of the rocks. Unfortunately Sandra, Ian, and Margaret had headed back to the parking lot. I alternately jogged and walked briskly back to alert them to the gull�s presence. By the time we drove to the location, pulled off, and crossed the road, we learned that a man had walked along the opposite shore flushing all the gulls. We could not relocate the Franklin�s Gull, so after yet another search, we started walking back to the vehicles at Sir Adam Beck. We spotted a Dark-eyed Junco and heard a Northern Cardinal along the walk back.

Our next destination was Queenston where we saw one adult Iceland and one adult Thayer�s. In the trees we noted a Downy Woodpecker and another cardinal.

We drove into Niagara-on-the-Lake, stopping first at the golf course. Species found here included Bonaparte�s and Herring Gulls, White-winged Scoters, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and Red-breasted Mergansers. We next headed to the little park where we saw all of these birds plus Common Loons, Horned Grebes, Double-crested Cormorant, and Long-tailed Ducks.

We returned to Sir Adam Beck with the hope of finding the Franklin�s Gull for Ian and Margaret as it would be a life bird for both of them. We had no luck and decided to return to the rocks, so we drove to the access road for the overflow parking for the Butterfly Conservatory where we parked. Sandra recognized Mourad�s vehicle; we had met him at the ponds where we observed the Buff-breasted Sandpiper and the Eared Grebe this past August. We walked to the location from which we had first checked the rocks. Mourad was there and announced he had the Franklin�s Gull. We all quickly found the bird in our scopes, and the Haighs added it to their life lists, too. Success!!! Thank you, Mourad!

We returned to the cars and drove to Dufferin Island Park where we parked and walked upstream toward the control gates. Checking the wall we found Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring, and Ring-billed Gulls. Farther out on the rocks were several Lesser Black-backed Gulls. On the water were Canada Geese, Gadwalls, Am. Black Ducks, Mallards, and Hooded and Common Mergansers. We decided to take a quick look for the Purple Sandpiper, but it was probably too late in the day. We walked to the usual spot but had no luck.

We returned to the motel where I was the only one waiting outside; I spotted a male Ring-necked Pheasant attempting to cross the road right in front of a vehicle that wasn�t slowing down. The pheasant retreated, the car passed, and the pheasant darted across the road and disappeared into the woodlot adjacent to the Super 8.

The eight of us drove to Lee�s Restaurant where we had our annual meal and enjoyable conversation. After good-byes to Frank and Sandra, the rest of us returned to our motel rooms for the night.


Submitted by Margaret Higbee

If you participated in this trip, you may add an outing report.

Willow Ptarmigan, 6/22/2013, Dalton Hwy., AK, Marg Higbee

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