Once you’ve tried all the chicken wings, visited some Frank Lloyd Wright houses, and watched the Sabres lose a few hockey games, you might think you have seen all there is to see in Buffalo. Well, guess again weary traveler, because if you can brave the high winds an chilly air, you may just happen across a gull bonanza along the Niagara River!
It’s no secret that Western New York has some of the best winter gull-watching opportunities in the Northeast. Once you get up to the towns of Niagara Falls and Lewiston along the Niagara River gorge, things can get pretty intense come January. This past week, however, favorable conditions brought in some cool birds for a nice late autumn gull appetizer. The highlight of the week was a Franklin’s Gull off the south end of Squaw Island. It was in a mix of hundreds of Bonaparte’s Gulls with ferocious appetites, all clustered mere feet from a fishing pier. There was also a Black-legged Kittiwake hanging around for a few days with this massive feeding flock, but the slightly more expected kittiwake proved much less cooperative for photographs than the franklin’s, which provided truly excellent looks and is a nice rarity for our area. The only difficulty was trying to get a clear photograph of the bird without all of those camera-hogging bonaparte’s gulls getting in the way.
A week later, I ventured out to Rich Marina to sort through some more Bonaparte’s gulls in hopes of something a little more exotic. Along with a few late Common Terns, an adult non-breeding Little Gull turned up amongst the hordes of bonies. While I was a bit spoiled with the 10 foot-point black looks at the Franklin’s, the little gull was much further away and behind a series of fences, but I was still able to snap a few blurry documentation shots that highlight the beautiful black underwing of adult Little Gulls.
Getting such a nice preview of some gull action before thanksgiving really has me excited for the wintertime. Last year the area had Black-headed Gull, Sabine’s Gull, and Slaty-backed Gull. What will this winter bring?