Friday, October 30, 2015

Great Lakewatching at Fort Erie - 29 Oct 2015

With a gale warning in effect (40kt SW) and predicted waves up to 4m, Fort Erie was the place to be (for me). I arrived at 8am, and was entertained enough to stay in the exact same spot over 9 hours! Who needs to eat?! I was joined at various times by Josh Vandermeulen, Ken Burrell, David Pryor and Andrew Keaveney.

The wind was ripping all day, but surprised us by dropping a little bit around 11am before getting going again in the afternoon. We had some sun, cloud, lake effect showers and even some hail/sleet in the 9-10C air. Ken pointed out an unusual swirling vortex that came in off the lake - almost like a large and powerful dust devil that you would see in the summer (and over land).

It was also fun watching the water levels rise and drop. I'm not sure if the control gates would have had any effect, but there was quite the drop midday after things were really surging in the morning.

Below is a screenshot of the buoy from offshore:

The birding was as variable as the wind and waves! We had the standard morning action of ducks and loons zipping everywhere at dawn. Due to the nature of the river mouth it is hard to really know how many birds are new arrivals, but we ended up with quite a bit of variety.

There was general consensus that numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls (and perhaps Common Terns) were much lower than expected, but starting around 11am they finally began filtering in off the lake and heading up river, carrying a smattering of other species. It was non-stop entertainment in the afternoon as a steady stream passed by. Nothing was returning to the lake, so it was fun knowing that each group was entirely new birds.

The list! -

Canada Goose  100
Gadwall  40
American Wigeon  20
American Black Duck  15
Mallard  75
Northern Shoveler  10
Northern Pintail  30
Green-winged Teal  2
Redhead  6
Greater Scaup  20
Lesser Scaup  40
Surf Scoter  15
White-winged Scoter  12
Black Scoter  5
Long-tailed Duck  150
Bufflehead  80
Common Goldeneye  30
Common Merganser  40
Red-breasted Merganser  250
Red-throated Loon  3  
Common Loon  25
Horned Grebe  35
Red-necked Grebe  3
Eared Grebe  1  
Double-crested Cormorant  500  
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Sanderling  1
Red Phalarope  4  
Parasitic Jaeger  3  
Sabine's Gull  1  
Bonaparte's Gull  4000  
Little Gull  9  
Ring-billed Gull  250
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  7
Common Tern  10  
Peregrine Falcon  2  
European Starling  20
House Sparrow  25

The skinny:

18 duck sp.
3 Red-throated Loons (incl one juvenile)
3+ Red-necked Grebes
~4000 Bonaparte's Gulls
~10 Common Terns (low?)
2 Peregrine Falcons (harassing each other over the river at dawn)

1 Eared Grebe
~4 Red Phalaropes
3 Parasitic Jaegers
1 Sabine's Gull
9 Little Gulls

The Eared Grebe was inside a group of 8 Horned Grebes and passed by reasonably close around mid afternoon. I tried for a record shot, but it's pretty bad. I also managed a record shot of 2 Red Phalaropes and 1 of the Parasitic Jaegers. The Jaeger was really neat in that it had started molting it's primaries. I think I've only ever seen this once before in ON (with this species) and that was after Hurricane Sandy - so I figured that bird had been blown here off the ocean. Check out the pics! - 

Inner primaries dropped!

Beauty looks at Red Phalaropes all day. These two landed within 30 yards and made a few flybys just offshore! 

Teribad grebe photo. All of these shots were taken with my pocket point and shoot camera at ~25x zoom - so that should speak to how close they were... Much better looks in real life! Anyways it's the very centre bird - note the slim body and darker face - but this picture is bordering on "not useful". 

Check out my ebird checklist for more commentary on numbers etc:

Great day to be out there! 


  1. It was an awesome day to be out! Wish I could have stayed all day, it looked like things really got going in the afternoon...

  2. Wow! Disappointed I missed a great day in one of my favourite spots!