Having postponed the field trip the previous week due to weather, I did not feel I could do so again. The weather forecast was worse this week, rain, snow 20-30 MPH winds and temperatures in the 20-30s. We headed up to Lake Erie in the rain; road conditions deteriorated as rain turned to snow the further north we drove; but we persevered. Our first stop was to scrap all the ice off the windshield wipers and car sensors!
We were chagrined with the amount of fog and rain when we reached Rocky River. Would we be able to find the Harlequin Duck that has been making this area home for the past month? The bravest of our group got out of the warm dry car, descended the steps and walked the beach. He returned without finding his desired lifer. Since the bird had also been seen at Bradstreet Landing we headed over there. This time we were able to see the Harlequin Duck and the associated Buffleheads from the car. We exited the car long enough to view this diving duck in the scope and confirm the ID with the classic white spots on an otherwise dusky duck.
Bouyed by this success, we decided to tackle gull identification at Wendy Park. But first, a stop at the Rocky River nature center to enjoy the birds at the feeders. The weather did not deter the Black-capped Chickadees, Juncos, Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers from enjoying the food provided by the park. We enjoyed the scenic view on the back deck, with snow and ice coating the rocks and water.
With the fog lifting, and the precipitation slowing, we headed through Cleveland’s snow covered West Side for Wendy Park. Thousands of gulls awaited us at Whiskey Island. But despite our diligent searching, none of the white winged gulls we’d hoped for were located. We saw hoards of Ring-billed Gulls with a few Herring and even fewer Great Black-backed Gulls. We also checked out Merwin’s Wharf and Scranton Flats. We were surprised how few species of waterfowl were present. Apparently the warmer temperatures and lack of ice on the lake has kept the ducks widely scattered.
Not looking forward to the drive home, we left before dusk. Fortunately conditions were better on the drive home. We finished the day with 35 species.
Great Black-backed Gull