You’ll never guess what I saw this weekend in Niagara on the Lake? (I suppose the title of the post gives it away, but the sighting remains monumental nonetheless.) A Razorbill (Alca torda)! This bird is a coastal creature and makes its home in the Atlantic ocean. Who knows, it probably got confused and mistook the St. Lawrence river for the ocean and eventually ended up on the shores of Lake Ontario and the Niagara river! Quite the momentous sighting:

Well, I’ll be honest with you — I didn’t quite get a penguin-esque view of the bird. On Saturday, he was swimming around diving for Lake Ontario delicacies (to each his own!). It ended up being a thrilling day, in spite of tenuous beginnings. At one point, I was beginning to fear that our most exciting sighting was a 10 pound brown trout!

This past Saturday was an important Gull day, as it turns out. The Who’s Who of the Ontario birding world were out in the field with their binoculars and scopes and blackberries! At one point, we were trying to distinguish the Thayer’s Gull from a normal gull (apparently the Thayer has a darker eye) and someone screamed, “Oh My God! There’s a Kittiwake at Whirlpool!” And before I could assess what was happening, we piled into the car and sped down the road toward Whirlpool to catch a glimpse of the Kittiwake, which looked suspiciously like every single other gull flying below. People stared intently and every so often someone would narrate, “see there between the trees, yes black plumage on the tail, flying down below, on a raft up again toward the tree, hiding, back out again yes there oh look oh it’s definitely a Kittiwake, no wouldn’t mistake it for a little gull, no way, oh what a beauty,” and after a while I zoned out and pointed my binoculars at the group of people on the shore below us, on the American side of the whirlpool and found myself wondering whether they had enjoyed their Black Friday shopping experience and pondered what their Turkey must have tasted like.

I didn’t see the Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). But it was wonderful to experience the Niagara area off-season, in mid-winter light. Verdict: Gulls are worse than sparrows which are worse than hawks in terms of my ability to distinguish them. Difficulties aside, it was a marvelous day.

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