Date: 12/2/19 9:55 am From: Bird observations from western New York <geneseebirds-l...> Subject: [GeneseeBirds-L] Black-headed Gull - Niagara River at the Whirlpool
This past Saturday afternoon, Jean Iron spotted an adult BLACK-HEADED GULL at the Whirlpool on the Niagara River, looking from the south overlook on the Canadian side. The bird was seen there again on Sunday and today, Monday. It was first discovered by several birders on Friday afternoon at the "flypast" at Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is at the mouth of the river where it flows into Lake Ontario. The flypast is the daily late afternoon flight of Bonaparte's Gulls, which fly out of the river to Lake Ontario to roost for the night. Birders watch from vantage points along the river near the mouth. The Black-headed Gull and up to 11 LITTLE GULLS have also been seen at the flypast the past two afternoons.
Seeing this bird is challenging. At the flypast, you will only have a few seconds to spot it as it flies by with Bonaparte's Gulls at about eye-level. Sightings the past few days have been between 4:00 and 5:00. At the Whirlpool, you are far above the gulls, which are also not that close. This makes seeing black on the underside of the primaries difficult. If the bird is sitting on the water, you may notice its paler mantle and slightly larger size than the Bonies. If the lighting is strong, you may see the red base of the bill but it is usually difficult to see this. A spotting scope is very helpful for spotting the bird at the Whirlpool and a knowledge of what to look for is essential. One experienced birder was unable to see it for 20 minutes, despite near constant directions provided by other birders as the bird flew around, until he got his scope and used that instead of binoculars.
It is a good fall for large numbers of gulls on the river, especially Bonaparte's Gulls. There are several ICELAND (including Thayer's), LESSER and GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS around, as well as a few GLAUCOUS GULLS. Look for LITTLE GULLS anywhere there are collections of Bonaparte's Gulls.
There are three male HARLEQUIN DUCKS above the falls that are seen with some regularity but not consistently. There have no Purple Sandpipers reported on the river, except for the birds seen at Donnelly's spit in Buffalo some days ago. There was a female BLACK SCOTER below the control gates on Friday.