ft wayne buffalo nov 2014 024

Michael Galas of the Buffalo Ornithological Society, founded in 1924 to promote the study of the birds of the Niagara Frontier Region, sent me an email in March asking if I would like to speak at the organization’s  85th Anniversary Dinner on November 15. I was familiar with the BOS from having met a couple of times in the 1970s Harold Axtell, a curator at the Buffalo Museum of Science  who was very active in the society. Harold was undoubtedly one of the premier field ornithologists of his day. Niagara Falls, as I have expressed in an earlier blog, is one of the continents great natural spectacle (its mind boggling to realize that as dramatic as it is, much of the water that could pour over the escarpment is diverted for hydroelectric production) and in November the liquid grandeur is augmented by vast numbers of gulls.

Sabine's gull.

Sabine’s gull.

As I reviewed the correspondence between Mike and me for this account, I am struck by how gracious he is and how much effort he put into making my stay so enjoyable. He picked me up at the airport on November 14 and we drove to Grand Island where he put  me in the hands of Willie D’Anna (one of the society’s most accomplished birders)  and Betsy Potter. The mass of gulls had not yet appeared but there were still a good number. The most unexpected bird around was one, or  possibly two, Sabine’s gulls. Willie spotted one individual and I managed to take some photos that when blown up sufficiently allow for identification of the subject. We also had an Iceland gull. But the bird highlight for me was a swarming flock of Bonaparte’s gulls. They are becoming increasingly scarce at the southern end of Lake Michigan and this might have been the large group of the species I have ever  seen. Suffice it to say I  took a whole lot of photos and the challenge became selecting one or two for this blog posting.

Bonaparte's gull.

Bonaparte’s gull.

The next morning (after having dinner with Mike and his wife Sylvia on the previous evening) Gerry Rising, a mathematician and former board member of the Buffalo Museum, took me on  a tour of the museum. There were a lot of people there, mostly parents with their children, to partake of Bubble Fest. As we learned later most every floor had a device for making bubbles. As we stood in the long line to buy tickets, Gerry saw the new director who came over to say hello. He generously ushered us around the line and through the gate. At one time there used to be an exhibit specifically devoted to birds but that apparently no longer is displayed, although birds are present in a number of exhibits. My travels over the last few years have introduced me to lots of museums. Some are doing well  while sticking to their original missions, while others have had to offer more in the realm of popular culture. Buffalo seems to be in the latter category: although having dropped most of its curators and reduced its natural history displays,  the visitors we talked to said it is a great place to bring kids in winter.

Buffalo Museum

Buffalo Museum

My talk that night for BOS was held in a venue called Aqua on the Niagara River where one could literally bird from one’s table. I met Kayo Roy, whom I had not seen in the several years since Cindy and I met him at  a Tim Horton restaurant on the other side of the river. A local artist displayed her striking depictions of birds. I left the next morning, and arrived home on Sunday afternoon. Monday, a lake effect snow blanketed- indeed smothered- parts of Buffalo in six to seven feet of snow. Houses actually collapsed. Tuesday I took off to San Francisco for eight days.

Ring-billed gull surveying its domain.

Ring-billed gull surveying its domain.

Passenger pigeon at Buffalo Museum.

Passenger pigeon at Buffalo Museum.

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