Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

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  A King Eider on the Niagara River

Published: November 11, 2023
Tags: Rarities, king eider, kiei, bird island pier, duck, peace bridge, niagara river, bonaparte's gull, bogu

On this cool but mostly sunny Saturday morning, I thought I'd take on the challenge of walking Bird Island Pier in Buffalo.  The pier, built around 1825, has been a bit of a daunting walk for me in the past; it's a long walk (2.2 miles), it's all cement, and it extends out over the Niagara River with just a couple of wire guardrails.  It actually goes under the Peace Bridge which is rather cool.  However, I've been out there when it's icy and it can be treacherous as well!

BUT - a female King Eider was found out in the river by Jordan J yesterday and, although I've seen them before (the last King Eider visited WNY in 2020 - almost to the day), I thought the calm winds and beautiful day might bring some photographic fruit for this special duck.

Little did I know that about half way out, the walk was barricaded for safety reasons due to damage from one of last winter's storms.  I had to climb through the two wire rails, walk down some rocks onto an uneven rocky area under the Peace Bridge to get around the barricade, then climb back up the rocks and get through the wire rails again to continue.  Ugh!  It was way more than I bargained for but I managed it.

Not all that much later, I saw the eider's large, brown body drifting in the river.  It was diving often (they dive to feed off of marine or freshwater invertebrates) and I nearly missed it.  I was glad for a little assistance from a couple of fellow birders who were watching the bird (and me) through their scopes from the West Side Rowing Club on shore.  When I got near the bird, they called letting me know the bird was right out from me.  Thank you, Dean!

The eider was mostly associating with Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers, both of which are beginning to build their presence in the river for the winter.  Long-tailed Ducks and Common Goldeneye were also present - and I got some close-up looks at a few Bonaparte's Gulls, a winter favorite of mine.

When I got to review the photos of the eider later on, I thought they turned out pretty decent considering the distance and the motion of the water.  But, to-date, these are my best yet of this arctic species.  I only wish it was a male!  If you've never seen a male King Eider, check out the photos from a post I made in 2015 when one came to Rochester:  Rochester Rarities: King Eider and Yellow-headed Blackbird.  They're quite extraordinary looking!

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Female King Eider floating on the river

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Female King Eider floating on the river

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Bonaparte's Gull, pixies of Lake Erie!

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