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Events

Contact:

Roger or Margaret Higbee at
724-354-3493
bcoriole@windstream.net.

Birding the Niagara Frontier

Fri, November 25, 8:00 am – Mon, November 28, 2011, 12:00 midnight
Niagara Frontier
Outing Leader: Roger and Margaret Higbee, bcoriole at windstream dot net, 724-354-3493

Description

You must have a passport or a passport card to enter Canada and return to the US. This four-day trip will cover Presque Isle and Dunkirk Harbor en route to the Peace Bridge. 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 Brant, all three scoters, Barrow�s Goldeneye, Red-throated Loon, Rednecked Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, Purple Sandpiper, Little Gull, California Gull, Thayer's Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and White-winged Crossbill.

Trip Report


Niagara 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011 � Ray and Daniel Winstead and Roger and I left our home at 6:17 and drove to the rest area just south of Grove City where we met Claire Staples and Melissa Little. It did not get light until we reached Butler County, but the day dawned cool and sunny.

Our first stop was at Dunkirk Harbor where the first bird I spotted was amazingly a good one-� Red-necked Grebe. Species seen here included:

Canada Geese
Am. Black Ducks
Mallards
Lesser Scaup
Buffleheads
Common Goldeneyes
Hooded Mergansers
Common Mergansers
Red-breasted Mergansers
Common Loons
Horned Grebes
Red-necked Grebes
Double-crested Cormorants
Great Blue Herons
Bald Eagle
Am. Coots
Bonaparte�s Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls
Herring Gulls
Great Black-backed Gulls

After lunch at our first Tim Horton�s in Dunkirk, we continued along I-90 in New York to the Peace Bridge. We crossed the Peace Bridge with no problems and headed to Old Fort Erie. Golden-crowned Kinglets were calling from the spruce across the road from the parking lot. Thousands of Buffleheads floated on the water and periodically flew upstream to float down again. Here, too, were numerous Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, and Long-tailed Ducks. We were fortunate to spot White-winged Scoters far out in the river near the structure upon which the Snowy Owl was perched several years ago. We walked a short distance upriver to get better looks. Claire and I sighted two Greater White-fronted Geese flying upriver, so we continued walking as I thought it might be possible that had landed on the rocks around the bend. Unfortunately, they apparently hadn�t stopped as we found only Canada Geese at the water�s edge. Flying over the river were numerous gulls � Bonaparte�s, Ring-billed, and Herring. Back near our vehicles Mallards and Am. Black Ducks were feeding near the edge.

We skipped the next parking lot then stopped at the following one. There were not many birds here, so we moved to the lot nearest the Peace Bridge. Again we sighted the same birds. We stopped at several other parking lots, but it wasn�t till we reached the Anglican Church that we added Common Mergansers and starlings. A flock of Canada Geese was feeding near the marina, so we checked for Cackling but had no luck. Roger and Melissa both heard E. Bluebird, but the rest of us missed it. Blue Jays were screaming here.

Continuing toward Niagara, we stopped below the control gates where we added Great Black-backed Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and a lone Dunlin. Beside the hydro building farther along we watched a Kumlein�s Iceland Gull in flight and noted another Lesser Black-backed Gull on the rocks.

After checking into the motel, we drove to Lee�s Restaurant where we had dinner.


Saturday, November 26, 2011 � We met Frank and Sandra Horvath and 14-year-old Cody at the Grimsby Welcome Center this morning. Cody is an excellent birder from the Hamilton Naturalists. We spent the first part of the morning birding along Lake Ontario, spotting all three scoters, many Long-tailed Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Our next destination was Windmere Basin. We parked along the road and viewed the ducks along the stream. Here were Hooded Mergansers and Double-crested Cormorants. We continued up the QEW and pulled off again. Crossing the road, we listed N. Pintails, N. Shovelers, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks, and Am. Coots. When we actually arrived at Windmere Basin, we found that the water had been drained. An Am. Kestrel and a Red-tailed Hawk were flying around here so we didn�t spend much time birding here.

We stopped once again just before Burlington where we added Canvasbacks and Gadwalls to our list. A Peregrine Falcon swooped by and perched on a street light where we photographed it.

La Salle Park was our next destination. The first bird we heard when we exited the van was a Carolina Wren. Frank and Sandra had once again brought bird seed which they distributed so that we all had the opportunity to feed birds from our hands. Besides the usual chickadees, Daniel enticed a White-breasted Nuthatch to take seed from his hand. Birds seen here included:

Mute Swans
Trumpeter Swans
Mallards
Redheads
Canvasbacks
Lesser Scaup
White-winged Scoters
Common Goldeneyes
Ring-billed Gulls
Mourning Dove
Black-capped Chickadees
White-breasted Nuthatches
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
N. Cardinals
Dark-eyed Juncos
Am. Goldfinches

We returned to the QEW and headed back toward Niagara-on-the-Lake, stopping at Hutch�s at Van Wagner�s Beach for our usual fish sandwich lunch.

When we reached Niagara-on-the-Lake, our first stop was at the little park where a Razorbill had been reported. We found it, but while Roger was looking through his scope, he also spotted an adult Little Gull. We took turns with the scopes, making sure everyone had good views of the Razorbill. A group of young birders were also present; one of them announced he had a jaeger coming toward us. It was pretty far out on the lake when he first spotted it, but it came into the river, circled and landed on the water in front of us. Species seen here included:

White-winged Scoters
Buffleheads
Red-breasted Mergansers
Common Loons
Horned Grebes
Red-necked Grebe
Little Gull
Bonaparte�s Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls
Herring Gulls
Pomarine Jaeger
Razorbill

For lack of another idea about where to eat, we returned to Lee�s Restaurant for another Chinese meal. Frank and Sandra and Cody joined us. We made plans to meet in the morning at the Whirlpool.


Sunday, November 27, 2011 � We ate breakfast at Tim Horton�s, our third dining experience at Tim�s, then headed to the Whirlpool. Upon arrival, Sandra immediately found an adult Little Gull which flew around the bend. Ray spotted a first-year Little Gull which we all finally saw. After we spent more time searching unsuccessfully for the Black-legged Kittiwake at this location, we continued to Sir Adam Beck. Sandra and Claire were the only two to see a Glaucous Gull. It was raining, but at least it wasn�t cold. Species seen here included:

Bonaparte�s Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls
California Gull
Herring Gulls
Thayer�s Gull
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Glaucous Gull
Great Black-backed Gulls

Our next stop was at Queenston for a Little Gull. It didn�t take us very long to locate an adult that everyone saw flying mostly in the middle of the river and on the US side.

We next headed to Jack Custer�s Bird Sanctuary to look for an Am. White Pelican. We were distressed to see an extremely friendly golden retriever running loose in the sanctuary. Frank stayed behind, distracting the dog. Mourning Doves and flocks of starlings were flying overhead. Am. Robins were added to the trip list. Melissa heard a N. Flicker while we were in the blind. We soon learned that distracting the friendly dog did not work. He swam out to the island where the pelican was standing. The pelican entered the water, and so did the dog. They went nose to nose. It looked like the dog just wanted to play.

We left the sanctuary and headed to Tim Horton�s for lunch, our fourth stop at this chain.

After lunch the Horvaths left as their grandson had a hockey game, and we returned to Sir Adam Beck where we watched a Pomarine Jaeger fly up the river and land on the water. I got him in the scope and was just stepping away for the others to look when I spotted a Peregrine flying over the ridge left of the dam. It swooped down and attacked the jaeger putting the jaeger to flight. They both disappeared downriver with the Peregrine in hot pursuit. At Sir Adam Beck several of us saw the Franklin�s Gull, but it flew upriver around the bend. We drove to the horticultural parking lot, parked, crossed the street, and headed downriver looking for a good vantage point. We found several, but a fisherman flushed many of the gulls off the rocks and we could not relocate the Franklin�s Gull.

We drove to Dufferin Island where Daniel spotted the trip�s only Downy Woodpecker. We walked up toward the control gates, but we added no new birds � just the same gulls. We then walked down to the bridge and checked the upper levels above the falls but added nothing new. We ate dinner at A Fine Kettle of Fish.


Monday, November 28, 2011 � We started our day with breakfast at Tim Horton�s (Where else?) then headed to the Whirlpool where very few gulls were present. Most were Herring with a smattering of Ring-billed and just a few Bonaparte�s. As Melissa stated, �I think we�re too early for the birds.� Since the larger gulls seemed to be more active, we drove to Sir Adam Beck. It was the right decision. When two crows flew by, Daniel commented, �That�s something different,� as we had amazingly not seen crows yet at Niagara. Besides the four common gulls, we also had several Iceland Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Roger and Claire spotted the adult California Gull again. Several of us had walked to the rightmost section to search once again for the Franklin�s Gull. Just as we were ready to leave, the Franklin�s appeared in the corner, circled several times � just long enough for most of us to find it � then spun off and headed back upriver. We stood around for another 15 minutes, but it did not reappear; so we returned to the Whirlpool where we once again failed to find the kittiwake.

We continued to the greenhouse parking lot. We parked, walked across the road, and birded on the right side of the hydro building. The Purple Sandpiper did not appear on its usual rock. We did, however, spot a first-year Glaucous Gull standing on the rocks. The bird took flight then circled several times before landing in the water. It repeatedly took off, circled, then returned to the water. It finally landed once again amid the other gulls on the rocks, but it was concealed partially by a Ring-billed Gull. We were all finally able to note its bicolored bill when it turned. A tour of the greenhouse was next. In the spruces near the greenhouse were Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets.

We crossed the Rainbow Bridge into New York. We crossed the Ohio line at 1:55 and drove to Ashtabula to look unsuccessfully for a Black-tailed Gull. Birds seen at the Lakeshore Park included:

Scoters sp? � too far out to ID
Red-breasted Mergansers
Ruddy Ducks
Bonaparte�s Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls
Herring Gulls
Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Great Black-backed Gulls
Blue Jays

At the park we met Tom Johnson and his friend Melissa. We drove over to the concrete bridge to look for the two Snowy Owls that had been reported. The first, a probable adult male, sported no black � it appeared totally white. The second bird had some black in its feathers. We returned to the park. Melissa and Claire left around 4:00 as Melissa had to pick up her dog. The four of us stayed until it was too dark to distinguish color. When we were about ten miles south on Rt. 11, Tom�s friend Melissa called to tell us that they had seen the gull fly overhead at the concrete bridge. We decided to continue on our way home since it would have been pitch dark by the time we�d returned to the park.



Ray and Daniel and Roger and I stopped at the Belmont exit for dinner at Denny�s. We arrived home around 9:00 p.m. What a great trip!

Submitted by Margaret Higbee

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

Ruddy Duck, Yellow Creek State Park, Indiana Co., PA, Marg Higbee

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