My target bird for this weekend was a Northern Gannet. It didn't take long to see one! I joined in the annual Lambton Wildlife (LWI) birding trip to Niagara this past weekend. It is a birding trip to look for unusal birds from Hamilton to Niagara.
We started at Van Wagners Beach near Hamilton at 07:30 Saturday. The lake was calm and not conducive to seeing seabirds, but there were lots of ducks and gulls and other water birds out there. Upon arrival, I saw a large mass of birds to the SE in the distance. I quite quickly picked out a large dark bird that had a different flight. I knew it was a gannet, even at that distance. After about ten minutes, this Northern Gannet flew towards us and went by us at fairly close range. My day was made!
There have been quite a few gannets reported on Lake Ontario in recent weeks. It is hard to say how many were out there, but a total of four were reported at Oshawa yesterday. Considering the distance, our bird was likely a separate one, so at least five were seen on Saturday. Here is a link to the OFO photo page of one at Cobourg http://www.ofo.ca/photoalbums/album/Gannets/index.html
Gannets are reported on Lake Ontario every fall, but there seems to be more of them this year. The LWI trip has been ongoing for many years, and had always hoped to pick one up. That never happened until this year.
Continuing on to Gray Rd, we stopped to view a spectacle of ducks and loons. Both Common and Red-throated Loons were present and several species of ducks. Near Fifty Point CA we came across a Mockingbird.
First stop on the Niagara River was at Adam Beck. Not much of interest there, so we moved upriver to various spots, and even tried to chase a Black-headed Gull that was reported near Fort Erie.
Link to a photo of this bird: here A group from the New York side found that gull, as well as a Yellow Warbler. Most Yellow Warblers are gone by late August, so that is probably a record late for the area. Interestingly, I found a Yellow Warbler at the Falls on November 19, 1995 beside the old power house. It was apparently record late at that time.
We were not too succussful in finding anything of note. In fact there were very few gulls on the river. It was certainly the fewest gulls that I have ever seen on the Niagara River for this time of year. Maybe this trip could be labeled Niagara No-shows! It was disappointing in that regard, but we all had a good time. There were a couple of Lesser-Black-backed Gulls, Iceland Gulls and a Glaucous Gull reported by others that day, but it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time (as usual!).