My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

Sue's Bird Blog Archives

King Eider on Lake Ontario

Published November 30, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, King Eider, Cooper's Hawk, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Barrow's Goldeneye, Horned Grebe, White-winged Scoter, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier

I took the long drive up to Wayne County, NY, in hopes of seeing the 1st year male King Eider that Joe Wing found at Bear Creek Harbor. A long, cold search ensued (two hours!) and finally, froze to the bone, I decided to give my eyes a break and go warm up.

I did a little birding around the area and was treated to some nice views of a Cooper's Hawk while I was thawing out (thanks for the ID help, Joe Wing!).  By then, it was getting late, but I didn't want to leave the area without giving this rare eider one more try.  I went back to the harbor feeling less than hopeful, but wouldn't you know, I saw the eider right away. He was swimming right out in front of the harbor, in spite of several fishermen hanging over the railing.

I saw Joe Wing there again, who was busy photographing the bird - and of course, I joined right in!  This life bird of mine graced us with some very nice views - until it disappeared without either of us seeing it leave.  We're still not sure how we missed its exit!

The King Eider's range is mainly around rocky, ocean coasts north of our area, so I was thrilled for the chance to see one - especially a male!  And by the way, an adult male in breeding plumage is extraordinary looking, but unfortunately, this guy wasn't quite there yet.

King Eiders are excellent divers, going 150 feet at times.  They nest in the tundra and the female is very protective of her nest. If a possible predator approaches, she'll hunker down, laying her head flat over the nest and can even be touched or picked up before she'll move!

I saw another life bird yesterday too, a Barrow's Goldeneye.  Thanks to some more assistance from Celeste Morien, I was able to find this unique, and uncommon bird at Point Breeze along Lake Ontario. The Barrow's Goldeneye was swimming in with a group of Common Goldeneyes and some scoters. After scanning through all the Common Goldeneyes for a long time, when I finally saw the Barrow's, he stood right out.  The white marking on his cheek is much different, as well as the darker back and white markings.  He was quite a thrill too!  Unfortunately, he was much further out than the eider, so the photos of this beautiful bird don't do it justice...

On my return trip today, I saw literally hundreds of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks in some farm fields along the way.  I stopped to enjoy and watch their flock behavior as they swooped and dove over the fields. Throw in a couple of Short-eared Owls and 3 Northern Harriers after that and the day was topped-off just beautifully!

photo of the sunset
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King Eider
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King Eider near some Ring-billed Gulls
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King Eider
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King Eider
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Barrow's Goldeneye (2nd duck in from the right)
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Barrow's Goldeneye (2nd duck in from the right)
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Cooper's Hawk
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A small sampling of the hundreds of Snow Buntings in this field!