26 November 2015
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura is a hardy species and can be seen locally well into the cold days of winter, with a few individuals even passing the winter here. In recent years it is to be expected that a few will be tallied on Christmas Bird Counts.
Yesterday on a visit to Niagara Falls several were circling above the Niagara Gorge and along the Niagara River, and we spotted four birds perched at the river's edge.
Based on anthropomorphic interpretation a Turkey Vulture is not the most appealing species but I have a great deal of respect for it and even have a sweatshirt with a hand painted image of a Turkey Vulture on it. The function they perform is vital to the well-being of the ecosystem and I think that everyone is familiar with the situation in India where vultures are poisoned by feeding on chemical-laced carcasses. The result is that rotting animals that would have been consumed by vultures are now spreading myriad forms of disease to humans.
I was happy to have the opportunity to photograph these individuals while they rested for a while.
In late November and early December Niagara Falls is a magnet for gull watchers with always the chance of extreme rarities showing up. The highest daily total is thirteen species, including Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistagus, an errant bird from Asia.
Yesterday was not an especially good day for gull observation, but the pictures below give some idea of the concentrations to be found. These views are taken above the falls, just before the water plunges over the precipice which forms the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border.
This image gives some sense of the rapids at this stage of the river's journey onward to Lake Ontario.
We did succeed in locating a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus at the Adam Beck Power Station, a relative rarity here, and if you look carefully you can see the birds, as well as a late Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus.
Far and away the most numerous species was the diminutive Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia, and you can see them on the water with other larger gulls for size comparison. At the generating station fish are chopped up in the turbines and provide rich feeding for opportunistic gulls.
The following image shows part of the massive bulk of this hydro-electric generating station.
A day's outing in the Niagara area is always an agreeable experience and we even saw a Tufted Titmouse Parus bicolor in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Unfortunately we were unable to get a picture of this fairly rare species in this area.
We chuckled to ourselves, as we observed tourists from every corner of the globe, that we were perhaps the only duo in town whose main interest was not the mighty falls!