MEGA: Buffalo Brown Booby!


Brown Booby against Buffalo Armory building - October 8, 2013 (photo Steve Brenner)

Brown Booby against Buffalo Armory building – October 8, 2013 (photo Steve Brenner)

As of 8:30 this morning (10/8/13), we had the Brown Booby giving excellent looks at the Erie Basin Marina. Here is a short video I took of the bird doing an awesome flyby of our viewing point. The bird appears to be an adult female. Perhaps the best part of this video is not the booby, but rather the audio reactions from the gallery of birders behind me. Take a look:


In perhaps the best alliterative post title of the fall, today was a banner day for Buffalo birding. After (and during) some heavy storms this morning, Jim Pawlicki reported an adult BROWN BOOBY off the Erie Basin Marina at approximately 1:30 this afternoon. The bird was seen flying just outside the inner break walls of the city out in Lake Erie right at the mouth of the Niagara River. When I received the rare bird alert text about this booby, I nearly fell off my chair. I quickly made plans to meet some local birders to hunt for this bird. This was a big one.

Unfortunately, the booby was extremely uncooperative and very skittish, offering only brief distant views to the few observers who had seen it by 2:30. Myself and a dozen other birders waited patiently at the West Side Rowing Club (a location just upriver from the initial sighting at the marina) for over an hour, but the bird remained hidden. Between spurts of very heavy rain and constant 20+ mph wind gusts, things were looking pretty grim. The group consensus was that the bird must be in the immediate area of the Niagara River and Lake Erie, and it was time to send some sacrificial lambs to spread out along the waterfront hotspots and find this baffling booby. Along with my friends Alec Humann and Rick Bacher, I left the rowing club to head another mile upriver to Squaw Island, with me and Rick on the south end and Jim and Alec on the north.

Hotspot cluster at the Buffalo Harbor

Soon, Alec called in that he and Jim had the bird heading south toward our position. A few moments later, the convoy of other birders stationed at other points along the waterfront arrived, and just as everyone exited their vehicles, the booby came streaming upriver ahead of a flock of cormorants. The bird gave us a solid 15 to 20 seconds of uninterrupted views from about 100 meters off shore before we all lost sight of it past the peace bridge to Canada. This bird was incredibly far from its normal range, and as you can see from the eBird range map, a first for Western New York.

ebird range map of Brown Booby

Now, the origin of this Brown Booby is something of a mystery, as the heavy weather pattern that hit our area today was not a result of a tropical storm or coastal system; just your run of the mill lake effect rain storm. I’m not complaining. The bird was terribly tough to get photographs of, and the driving rain and heavy winds didn’t help anyone’s cause. I only saw the booby for that one short period and was sadly unable to get pictures. Here is a link to Jim Pawlicki’s photos of the bird. I’ll be out there in the morning to try and find this guy again, and maybe turn up another crazy rarity. All in all, an awesome day birding. I always did like boobies.