Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Out in the Water: Buffalo's Mega Rarity, The Brown Booby

Last Monday, Birder Jim Pawlicki spotted a Brown Booby in Buffalo. Word spread like wildfire throughout the birding community and even got a top news spot. For more on the story, see the Buffalo News story here. My husband was able to rush right out there the day it was located to catch a sighting of it but I, on the other hand, because of work had to sit day after day hoping that it would stick around until I could get out there to try for it myself. 
Much to my relief, five days later the bird was still being spotted and had actually established a routine by then, giving everyone a good idea when the best time and place would be to locate the bird. Consistently it had been seen hanging out with hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants, roosting on a decrepit lighthouse, and relaxing on a concrete break wall known as Donnelly's Pier from Lake Erie and up the Niagara River a little ways.

So Saturday I headed to Buffalo, but had a prior engagement to attend first. After that, I was off to the Erie Basin Marina around 4pm. Due to the enthusiasm and number of eyes out looking for her, combined with regular updates from the rare bird alert text messaging service, emails, and phone calls from my husband who had been staked out since dawn, I was able to get on it easily. All I had to do was schlep my 38 1/2 week pregnant body up four stories to the top of the Observation Tower at Erie Basin Marina. 

As soon as I got to the top of the tower and caught my breath, Birder Alec Humann graciously pointed the bird out to me and offered his spotting scope for me to look through. And there was the Brown Booby, hanging out on the tip of the lower level of the lighthouse out on the lake. Basically, this was the view. Okay, maybe it was a little better since you could watch her stand up and move her head and such. Enough to get an ID based on size and shape. Not to mention, I digiscoped this image by holding my Droid Razr up to the scope. Utter failure. 

The fun did not stop there though. It was a beautiful Fall day in Buffalo with temperatures in the mid 70's, so relaxing in the tower for a few hours was actually a pleasure. Certainly a far cry from the experience one has when seeking refuge there in the dead of winter in search of exotic gulls. A few days earlier, some people we knew had the opportunity to flag down a boater who kindly took them out onto the water to get close up views and amazing photographs (see Buffalo News story for details on that). All of us had wished we had that kind of "right place at the right time" kind of luck. That is when Alec took matters into his own hands and went to seek out a similar experience for all of us in the tower. We got lucky. Really lucky. He found someone who was not only willing, but sober, who offered to take us out there in his boat. Of course, his generosity did not stop there and after seeing how many of us there was, he offered to go get his ship, that would accommodate all of us at once. He took a small group out to the lighthouse, then went down river to switch out his boats. 

 Aboard the Alexandria

We anxiously awaited their return, boarding the ship literally minutes before sunset. It was a thrill riding out there, and the weather was still perfect. We were able to get close enough to see the bird wonderfully with only binoculars, and those with their bazooka sized camera lenses tried to get some good photos in spite of the lack of proper light and movement of the boat. Armed with only my small lens, I was restricted to landscapes and snap shots, but seeing the bird in the first place, and the adventure that followed was more than enough for me. I can not offer enough thanks to both Alec for finding us a ride, and the kind man who went above and beyond to take us out there. There sure are some really great people in the Buffalo area and I was with a great group of them, plus a few really nice new faces from out of state. 

Fellow Booby enthusiasts boding us a farewell from the top of the 
Observation Tower at Erie Basin Marina
From the ship, a view looking at the Reef Lighthouse where the Brown Booby has been roosting along with the Cormorants. City of Buffalo in the background.
Photo of the Brown Booby on concrete base of the Reef Lighthouse 
as seen from the boat. Photo courtesy of Brian Morse
Some birders like this guy, set up vigil for the booby, arriving before dawn to see her off in the morning and sticking around until she roosts at night. Alright, he stuck around for me to make sure that I was able to see her when I could get there, but sitting here with the fresh lake air blowing through his beard, I know he is glad that he did. 
The City of Buffalo.
On the far left you can see the Observation Tower where there has been a steady stream of birders daily from dawn to dusk trying to catch a glimpse of the bird. 
Captain Moeen (left), and Birder Andy Guthrie as Skipper
Alec Humann, our hero who found us someone willing to take us out, and Greg Lawrence, give the thumbs up after a successful trip to see the Booby at the roosting site. 
We owe you one Alec. 
Saluting our Captain of the Alexandria
Thanks aren't enough for this man.

For more from our trip out on the water visit:
Or these articles and photos on the web from: 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. What a great blog. I had the same reaction to going out for a closer look and never even imagined something like that would be possible let alone happen. Great photos. Best wishes for a great delivery and hopefully I will see you guys out taking pictures again. Andrea

    1. Thanks Andrea! Delivery was a success. Phoebe was born on October 28th :) Hope to see you around.