Thursday 29 December 2016

Big December Day

Yesterday in an effort to brighten up the last few days of December, I did a "Big Day" in Hamilton and along the Niagara river. I set a goal of 50 species, and I ended with 52. We started with looking at the Burlington Bay area, where 19 Greater Black-backed Gulls were found.

Next was the canal under the lift bridge that crosses the Halton/Hamilton county line. Hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks inhabited the area.

From Front to Back: Adult Male, First-winter Male, Adult Female

A few scoters and mergansers were with them.

White-winged Scoter

Then came the real prize...a female King Eider.

Windermere Basin yielded some puddle ducks such as American Wigeon and Northern Shovelers. This was also the only place where I found a few Ruddy Ducks among the Buffleheads.

We searched for Black Vultures at Queenston Heights next. Nothing at first but this Red-tail.

But then I noticed some dark blobs on the church...a kilometer and a half away!

I took pictures, but the blobs appeared to be Turkey Vultures, which also winter in the area. But I figured that where there are Turkeys there could be Blacks hidden among them. I ran back to the car to get my scope, and set up. It took 10, maybe 15 minutes before I saw three smaller-than-TV black birds flying at least another 500 meters behind the church. They then sharply dropped beneath the tree line but in the split second before disappearing, I saw the silvery wing tips of the Black two kilometers! We soon re-found at least one on the church.

The Queenston sand docks revealed this funny Long-tailed Duck. She swam quite far down river in this position.

At the whirlpool I found a Thayer's Gull, but no Black-headed! Four Canvasbacks as well.

I got my first real taste of gull-watching (gulling?) above the falls. Thousands of gulls were perched and flying around.

This barge known as "The Old Scow" broke loose from the tug boat up stream while dredging the sand banks almost a century ago on August 6, 1918.  There were two men on board when it got marooned on the rocks just up stream from the Horseshoe falls.  It took the US Army to help with the rescue, and 17 hours later the two men once again stood on solid ground.

We met a group of birders who were just leaving. They told us that there were a few Little Gulls flying around. Little Gulls are quite rare in the ABA area (code 3), but can be reliably found in Ontario. You just need to know where to look.

If Little Gulls didn't have a dark underwing, it would be nearly impossible to pick them out.  I had to be quick to get this shot.  He was hard to keep track of.

It was an awesome day, and I'm four species closer to 250. Eight more to go!


  1. That is an interesting birding area. Good that you met your goal!

  2. Good job, Quinten....hope you get the next 8!

    1. Thanks Allen...I wonder what will be the 250th species?